Three U.S. service members had been killed in Jordan on Sunday and no less than 34 others had been injured in what the Biden administration stated was a drone assault from an Iran-backed militia, the primary recognized American army fatalities from hostile hearth within the turmoil spilling over from Israel’s struggle with Hamas.
The assault occurred at a distant logistics outpost in northeast Jordan known as Tower 22 the place the borders of Syria, Iraq and Jordan converge. The one-way assault drone hit close to the outpost’s residing quarters, inflicting accidents that ranged from minor cuts to mind trauma, a U.S. army official stated.
However the deaths of U.S. service members, most of whom had been army reservists, will nearly actually improve strain on President Biden to retaliate extra forcefully as strife grows within the Center East after the Oct. 7 assaults that killed 1,200 individuals in Israel.
“Three U.S. service members had been killed — and plenty of wounded — throughout an unmanned aerial drone assault on our forces stationed in northeast Jordan close to the Syria border,” Mr. Biden stated in a press release on Sunday. “Whereas we’re nonetheless gathering the information of this assault, we all know it was carried out by radical Iran-backed militant teams working in Syria and Iraq.”
Talking later in Columbia, S.C., Mr. Biden stated, “We misplaced three courageous souls.” The president then led a second of silence, earlier than including, “We will reply.”
Protection Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III additionally held Iran-backed militias chargeable for the continued assaults in opposition to U.S. troops within the area, however he didn’t determine which nation the assault was launched from. “The president and I cannot tolerate assaults on American forces, and we’ll take all mandatory actions to defend the USA, our troops and our pursuits,” Mr. Austin stated.
The Pentagon declined to determine the service members who died or their models pending notification of relations. The army’s Central Command stated in a press release that eight of the injured service members had been flown to “higher-level care” exterior the nation, which different officers stated was in Iraq. Central Command stated it anticipated the variety of injured to “fluctuate” as further service members sought remedy.
In a press release, the Iran-backed militias who name themselves the Axis of Resistance claimed accountability for the assault on the bottom in a distant desert space of Jordan, saying it was a “continuation of our strategy to resisting the American occupation forces in Iraq and the area.”
A spokesman for Iran’s International Ministry, Nasser Kanaani, stated at a information convention on Monday that the militias “don’t take orders” from Iran and act independently to oppose “any aggression and occupation.” He stated that accusations that Iran had ordered the strike had been “baseless,” and blamed Israel and the USA for fueling instability within the area.
The drone strike got here as Israel and Hezbollah, one other Iranian ally, have traded hearth throughout the Lebanese border. A Houthi militia in Yemen, additionally backed by Iran, has fired missiles and drones at industrial ships within the Crimson Sea and the Gulf of Aden, calling it a retaliation for the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. The USA and its allies have fired again, hanging inside Yemen no less than 10 instances.
And on Jan. 20, no less than 4 U.S. service members stationed in western Iraq had been injured when their air base got here beneath heavy rocket and missile hearth from what American officers stated had been Iran-backed militias. It was the newest in no less than 164 strikes by Iran-backed militias in opposition to U.S. troops in Syria, Iraq and Jordan because the Oct. 7 assaults.
Till Sunday’s lethal assault, senior administration officers stated that solely luck had spared the USA from extra critical casualties. One drone full of explosives landed on a barracks on the Erbil air base in Iraq on Oct. 25. It turned out to be a dud, however a number of service members would most definitely have been injured or killed had it exploded, a senior army official stated.
The drone strike in Jordan on Sunday demonstrated that the Iran-backed militias — whether or not in Iran or Syria, or the Houthis in Yemen — remained able to inflicting critical penalties on American troops regardless of the U.S. army’s efforts to weaken them and keep away from tumbling right into a wider battle, probably with Iran itself.
“We don’t need to go down a path of higher escalation that drives to a wider battle throughout the area,” Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Workers, stated on Sunday.
Requested in a prerecorded session on ABC Information’s “This Week” whether or not he thought Iran wished struggle with the USA, Common Brown, echoing assessments from the U.S. intelligence companies, stated, “No, I don’t assume so.”
In his assertion, Mr. Biden known as the fallen U.S. troops “patriots within the highest sense,” and stated they had been “risking their very own security for the protection of their fellow People, and our allies and companions with whom we stand within the combat in opposition to terrorism. It’s a combat we won’t stop.”
Final Sunday, the Pentagon declared two members of the Navy SEALs lifeless after they disappeared 10 days earlier throughout an operation at sea to intercept weapons from Iran headed to Houthi fighters.
The Navy commandos had been the primary recognized U.S. fatalities in Washington’s marketing campaign in opposition to the Houthis, who from territory they management within the nation’s north have launched dozens of assaults on ships within the Crimson Sea since November, roiling the worldwide transport trade.
The People killed on Sunday had been the primary recognized fatalities from hostile hearth within the area because the Oct. 7 assaults by Hamas.
About 350 Military and Air Drive personnel are deployed to the Tower 22 border outpost. It serves as a logistics and resupply hub for the Al Tanf garrison close by in southeastern Syria, the place American troops work with native Syrian companions to combat remnants of the Islamic State. The USA additionally has about 2,000 troops stationed at an air base in Azraq, Jordan, in addition to Particular Operations forces and army trainers.
“By concentrating on Jordanian soil, Iran will get to exacerbate one other U.S. relationship within the area,” stated Charles Lister of the Center East Institute in Washington.
The Jordanian authorities in a press release condemned the assault and stated the People had been “cooperating with Jordan in countering terrorism and securing the border.”
It was unclear on Sunday why air defenses on the outpost didn’t intercept the drone, which former army commanders stated seemed to be the primary recognized assault on the situation since assaults on U.S. forces started quickly after the Oct. 7 incursion.
In 2016, the American army turned Al Tanf right into a small base. It’s on the strategic Baghdad-Damascus freeway — a significant hyperlink for forces backed by Syria’s ally Iran in a hall that runs from the Iranian capital, Tehran, by way of Iraq and Syria to southern Lebanon.
The Rukban refugee camp, with some 8,000 residents, is close to each Al Tanf and Tower 22.
Troops at Al Tanf have come beneath hearth earlier than from Iran-backed militias. The Protection Division stated final fall that 21 troops had suffered minor accidents however returned to obligation after the assaults on Oct. 17 and 18 at Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq and the Al Tanf garrison.
Congressional Republicans who’ve criticized Mr. Biden’s coping with Iran and its proxies seized on Sunday’s assault to demand that the administration take extra forceful motion.
“We should reply to those repeated assaults by Iran and its proxies by hanging immediately in opposition to Iranian targets and its management,” stated Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the highest Republican on the Armed Companies Committee. “The Biden administration’s responses to date have solely invited extra assaults.”
Reporting was contributed by Alissa J. Rubin from New York, Zolan Kanno-Youngs from Charlotte, N.C., Peter Baker and Julian E. Barnes from Washington and Rana Sweis from Amman, Jordan.