High-ranking U.S. officials issued a stern warning to Iran-backed militants on Sunday, a day after a drone attack claimed the lives of three U.S. troops in Jordan, intensifying the situation in the Middle East.
President Joe Biden, speaking in South Carolina, acknowledged the challenging circumstances, stating, “We had a tough day last night in the Middle East. We lost three brave souls in an attack on one of our bases,” before observing a moment of silence and affirming a resolute response.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed his outrage and deep sadness over the deaths, pledging that the strike would not go unanswered. He attributed the ongoing attacks on U.S. forces to Iran-backed militias and asserted that the U.S. would respond at a time and place of its choosing.
Austin, emphasizing that attacks on American forces would not be tolerated, assured that all necessary actions would be taken to defend the United States, its troops, and its interests.
The drone attack on Saturday night resulted in the death of three U.S. service members, with an additional 25 wounded. This marks the first instance of American troops being killed amid months of drone and missile attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, Syria, and now Jordan, following the October 7 incident where Hamas militants killed 1,200 Israelis.
The attack targeted the living quarters of the base, situated near the Iraq-Syria border, known as Tower 22. This outpost, attached to the Rukban refugee camp, has been utilized by U.S. special operations troops for operations into Syria against the Islamic State.
The White House reported that President Biden was briefed on the attack by Austin, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, and Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer. Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. C.Q. Brown emphasized the U.S.’s goal of deterring further conflict escalation in the Middle East.
Prominent Republican senators urged the administration to consider striking inside Iran as a response. The Tower 22 base, previously targeted in October, has faced actions by Iran-backed militants, particularly near Syria’s al-Tanf Garrison, which has been a frequent target since October.
Former Defense Department official and retired CIA paramilitary officer Mick Mulroy called for a robust response, targeting not only the group responsible for the attack but also the Iranian IRGC Quds Force.
The region has experienced heightened tensions, with American and British warships countering drone and ballistic missile attacks by Iranian-backed Houthi militants in Yemen, affecting global trade routes in the Red Sea. Since October, Iran proxies have targeted U.S. and allied forces 158 times, causing minor injuries and infrastructure damage.
The Tower 22 base, strategically located to disrupt transit along the Baghdad-Damascus highway, remains a focal point, emphasizing the complex geopolitical dynamics in the region.