Three U.S. service members were killed and at least 25 others were injured in Jordan on Sunday in what President Joe Biden said was a drone attack from an Iran-backed militia.
The drone attack was carried out at a remote logistics outpost in northeast Jordan called Tower 22 where the borders of Syria, Iraq and Jordan converge, The New York Times reported.
The one-way attack drone hit near the outpost’s living quarters, causing injuries that ranged from minor cuts to brain trauma, a U.S. military official told the Times.
Biden, who was traveling in South Carolina, said Sunday that the U.S. will respond to the attack.
“We had a tough day last night in the Middle East. We lost three brave souls in an attack on one of our bases,” he said. After a moment of silence, Biden added, “and we shall respond.”
Biden said in a written statement that the United States “will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner (of) our choosing,” The Associated Press reported.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin added, “We will take all necessary actions to defend the United States, our troops, and our interests.”
Iran-backed militias who call themselves the Axis of Resistance claimed responsibility for the attack on the base, AP reported.
The group said it was a “continuation of our approach to resisting the American occupation forces in Iraq and the region.”
On Jan. 20, at least four U.S. service members stationed in western Iraq were injured when their air base came under heavy rocket and missile fire from what American officials said were Iran-backed militias.
The attack was the 164th strike by Iran-backed militias against U.S. troops in Syria, Iraq and Jordan since the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel, according to the Times.
Whether Sunday’s attack signals the start of a wider war in the Middle East is unclear.
One senior American official, who spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information, said on Sunday that the United States did not believe that Iran intended to start a wider war with the attack in Jordan. But he cautioned not all the information is in on whether it was Iran’s idea to ramp up the tensions in the region by launching the attack, or whether a militia group decided to do so on its own.
Republicans on Sunday blamed what they called Biden’s inaction after other attacks for the attack on the base in Jordan, according to Reuters.
“The entire world now watches for signs that the president is finally prepared to exercise American strength to compel Iran to change its behavior,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, the Republican leader in the Senate.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said flatly: “Hit Iran now. Hit them hard.”
Congressional Democrats are calling for a measured response.
“This attack on U.S. and coalition troops in Jordan — our steadfast regional partner — is an escalation, and cannot go unanswered. I support President Biden in a deliberate and proportionate response,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, said that he, too, backs a call for a “deliberate and proportional” response.
“The Department of Defense is still gathering all the facts from this attack. I am confident the Biden administration will respond in a deliberate and proportional manner.” Reed is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services.
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