WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday he had decided on a response to a drone strike that killed three American troops in Jordan but said he did not want a wider war in the Middle East.

Facing growing pressure in an election year, Biden said he held Iran responsible for supplying the weapons to the people who carried out the deadly attack on a military base.

The White House warned that “multiple actions” were likely in retaliation for the first fatal attack on US forces in the region since the Gaza crisis broke out in October, but gave no further details. Biden, 81, who was hitting the campaign trail in Florida, has previously blamed Iran-backed militias for the attack which has further raised fears of a regional conflict.

“Yes,” Biden told reporters at the White House when asked if he had decided on his response, but he did not give details on what actions he would take.

“I don’t think we need a wider war in the Middle East. That’s not what I’m looking for,” he added when asked about fears that taking on Iran could inflame a broader conflagration.

Iran has denied any links to the drone strike, and said it was not seeking an expansion of conflict, either.

‘Multiple actions’

Republicans have urged the Democrat to punish Iran for the drone strike on a US military facility near the Jordanian-Syrian border, with some urging direct strikes on Iran itself.

But Biden’s administration believes hitting Iranian territory could cause the region to erupt, with strikes on Iranian-backed militias and possibly on Iranian Revolutionary Guard facilities in other countries more likely, US media reported.

“It’s very possible that what you’ll see is a tiered approach here, not just a single action but potentially multiple actions,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters aboard Air Force One.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the response “could be multi-leveled, come in stages, and be sustained over time.” Asked whether Iran was to blame for the attack on Jordan, Biden replied: “I do hold them responsible, in the sense that they’re supplying the weapons to the people who did it.” Biden added that “we’ll have that discussion” when asked if a direct link to Iran had been established.

The deaths of the service members came as campaigning for the US presidential election in November gets into full swing, adding to the political pressure on Biden.

The US president will attend the “dignified transfer” of the bodies of the three slain service members at an airbase on Friday, the White House said.

Kremlin urges calm

The Kremlin, a close ally of Tehran, on Tuesday called for a de-escalation in the Middle East. “In our view, the overall level of tension is very alarming and, on the contrary, now is the time for steps to de-escalate tensions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow.

“This is the only thing that can help us prevent further spreading of the conflict, especially the Middle East conflict, and somehow achieve de-confliction and de-escalation.” Tehran has said it had nothing to do with the attack and denied US accusations it supported militant groups behind the strike near the borders with Iraq and Syria.

China also warned against a “cycle of retaliation” in the Middle East. Beijing has close ties with both Russia and Iran, with all three seeking to challenge what they say is Washington’s global hegemony.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

Afghan challenge
Updated 15 Jul, 2024

Afghan challenge

Foreign states must emphasise to the Afghan Taliban diplomatic recognition and trade relations all depend on greater counterterrorism efforts.
‘Complete’ justice
15 Jul, 2024

‘Complete’ justice

NOW that the matter of PTI’s reserved seats stands resolved, there are several equally pressing issues pertaining...
Drug fog
15 Jul, 2024

Drug fog

THE country has an old drug problem. While the menace has raged across divides of class and gender, successive ...
Miles to go
Updated 14 Jul, 2024

Miles to go

Some reforms agreed with the Fund are going to seriously impact economic growth and fresh investments, at least in the short term.
Iddat ruling
14 Jul, 2024

Iddat ruling

IT was a needless, despicable spectacle which only ended up uniting both conservatives and progressives in ...
Cricket shake-up
14 Jul, 2024

Cricket shake-up

SOMEONE had to take the blame and bear the brunt of the fallout from Pakistan’s disastrous showing at the T20 ...