Should The West Be Worried About War With Iran?

The death of three US troops has sparked concern about further conflict in the Middle East.
US President Joe Biden has warned that the US "shall respond at a time and place of our choosing".
US President Joe Biden has warned that the US "shall respond at a time and place of our choosing".
KENT NISHIMURA via Getty Images

Three US troops were killed in a strike on a US base in Jordan, sparking fears it could escalate the West could be officially roped into the discord in the Middle East.

US president Joe Biden blamed Iran-backed militia groups for the strike and warned that the States “shall respond at a time and place of our choosing”.

Iran has denied any involvement in Sunday’s strike, claiming it has “no connection and had nothing to do with the attack”.

Regional tensions have been heightened ever since Palestinian militants Hamas killed 1,200 people on Israeli soil on October 7, and took a further 240 people hostage.

Israel declared war, put Gaza under siege, and launched a ground offensive.

Hamas-run local authorities say an estimated 26,000 Palestinians have been killed since the war began.

As speculation over the US’s response grows, here’s what you need to know.

What just happened?

Three US troops were killed and dozens more were injured in a drone attack at a US base on Sunday.

Officials say at least 34 were hurt in the strike but that number could increase as more people seek medical assistance.

According to US media, living quarters in a base called Tower 22 were hit – that’s in the most northeast point of Jordan, where it meets Syria and Iraq.

But the US military has not officially confirmed the location of the attack.

The US has been helping Jordan set up a surveillance system on the border since 2011, to help stop militants from Syria and Iraq entering the country.

This is the first time US troops have been killed via drone attack in the region since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7.

But, US military bases in Iraq and Syria have been repeatedly targeted in the last few months.

There have been more than 150 attacks in total, causing at least 70 casualties.

Houthi rebels in Yemen have also targeted US commercial ships passing through the Red Sea.

The US responded by striking targets in Syria and Iraq, and targeted Yemen’s Houthi military bases.

Sunday’s casualties were not not the first time US troops have died since the Israel-Hamas conflict broke out, either.

On January 11, two US Navy Seals also went missing when trying to seize Iranian-made weapons heading to Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The US military says they are now presumed dead. Media reports suggest one troop was swept away and the other tried to save him.

Who was responsible for the recent drone attack?

Biden said in a statement: “While we are still gathering the facts of this attack, we know it was carried out by radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq.”

“Have no doubt – we will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner of our choosing,” he added.

But Tehran has denied any involvement with the strike.

A spokesperson from Iran’s UN mission said Iran “no connection and had nothing to do with the attack on the US base”.

They added: “There is a conflict between US forces and resistance groups in the region, which reciprocate retaliatory attacks.”

But the Islamic Resistance in Iraq – an umbrella term for the loose coalition of Iranian-backed militants – has claimed responsibility for three attacks in Syria, including one on the Jordan-Syria border.

It’s not entirely clear they were referring to the strike which killed three US troops.

According to the Atlantic Council, the membership of Islamic Resistance is purposefully vague so that each group has plausible deniability.

A senior official with Hamas, Sami Abu Zuhri, told Reuters that the drone strike was linked to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

“The killing of three American soldiers is a message to the US administration that unless the killing of innocents in Gaza stops, it must confront the entire nation,” he said.

“The continued American-Zionist aggression on Gaza is capable of exploding the situation in the region.”

How is the US expected to respond?

There were already tensions between the US and Iran prior to this strike.

Iran is a known supporter of Hamas, while the US is Israel’s strongest ally.

Biden is expected to retaliate, especially as the US presidential election looms later this year.

Donald Trump, widely expected to be the Republican candidate battling it out with Biden for presidency come November, was quick to for immediate US action.

The former president also said the attack would “never have happened if I was president”.

Right-wing critics of the Biden administration are also using the incident to accuse the president of being too gentle on Iran.

It’s worth remembering that tensions were also high during the Trump administration, and US troops in Syria were targeted repeatedly.

But, former US ambassador to Yemen, Gerald Feierstein said neither the US nor Iran want further escalation.

He told BBC World Service the US administration will be under “great deal of pressure” to step up its operations, but suggested Biden probably will not want a direct strike against Iran.

So far the US has officially denied that it is at war in the Middle East.


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