A defective drone launched by an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq failed to detonate and caused minimal damage to American troops. This incident is part of a series of attacks, including drone and rocket strikes, launched by Iranian-backed militias in response to American support for Israel in the Gaza war. These attacks have resulted in minor injuries and have been intercepted by U.S. air defenses. However, experts warn that the risks of a major strike that could draw America into a conflict are increasing. President Joe Biden’s response to such an attack remains uncertain. The conflict between Israel and Hamas, which triggered the attacks, has resulted in significant casualties. Iran denies involvement in the initial raid but has expressed support for it. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has visited Iraq to urge the government to crack down on the militias, but their assault continues. The prime minister’s plea to halt the attacks was largely ignored, with the militias demanding an end to the Israeli siege of Gaza.Ali Turki, a Shi’ite lawmaker and commander with the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, emphasized that no one, including the prime minister, can oppose their religious duty. Arif al-Hamami, another Shi’ite lawmaker, expressed doubt about the effectiveness of diplomacy due to Israel’s actions in Gaza with American support. The Iraqi and Iranian governments have not yet commented on the militia attacks and the potential for escalation.
The article highlights that Iraq’s prime minister has limited control over the militias, which played a crucial role in his rise to power and now hold significant influence in the governing coalition. These militant groups, supported by Iran, emerged in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Sudani, the prime minister, has engaged in shuttle diplomacy to address the situation.
After meeting with Blinken, Sudani traveled to Tehran to directly appeal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other Iranian officials for assistance. Sudani expressed concerns about the attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and the potential consequences for his politically and economically unstable country. However, the Iranian officials stated that the militias in Iraq make their own decisions, and Tehran would not interfere.
Iran has condemned the Israeli assault on Gaza as genocide and warned that the U.S. will not be spared if it continues. Additionally, Hezbollah, supported by Iran in Lebanon, has warned Washington of severe consequences in a regional war. These developments contribute to the complex situation in the region.
The article also mentions the challenges faced by President Biden as he receives reports of hostilities in the region. Recent attacks by Iranian-aligned Houthi fighters off the coast of Yemen were intercepted by a U.S. Navy destroyer. The crisis occurs as the U.S. has been gradually withdrawing military assets from the Middle East to focus on other global issues.
Overall, the article underscores the limited control of Iraq’s prime minister over the militias, the concerns about escalating tensions, and the broader regional dynamics involving Iran and the United States.The response from Biden to the situation has been cautious thus far. Last month, he ordered strikes on two Iranian-linked arms storage facilities in Syria while they were unoccupied. However, he has not ordered any strikes in Iraq. Recently, Biden followed up with a similar strike in Syria, and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urged against any escalation.
Biden has issued warnings to Iranian-backed groups in the region, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, cautioning against expanding the conflict. However, he and other officials have not explicitly stated what actions they would take in response.
The U.S. hopes that a military show of force will deter any serious attacks. To demonstrate this, they have deployed two aircraft carrier strike groups and announced the movement of an Ohio-class submarine to the region.
In addition to sending air defenses like the Patriot system and a high-altitude system, the U.S. military is taking extra measures to protect its troops in the region. These measures include increasing patrols, restricting access, and enhancing intelligence gathering at U.S. military bases.
Critics, including Republicans in Congress, believe that Biden’s response to the crisis has not been strong enough. Republican Senator Tom Cotton stated that Iran will continue to target Americans until President Biden imposes severe costs on Iran.
During a hearing with Defense Secretary Austin, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham pressed for clarity on whether the deaths of U.S. service members would trigger a direct response against Iran. Austin avoided a direct answer, only stating that Iran should be held accountable.
The recent attacks on U.S. troops evoke painful memories for some, such as the 1983 truck bomb in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. service members. David Madaras, a Marine who experienced the Beirut bombing, sees parallels between that event and the current situation, raising concerns about history repeating itself.
Overall, Biden’s response to the situation has faced criticism for not being strong enough. The U.S. military is taking steps to protect its troops and deter further attacks, but critics argue for a more forceful approach. The memories of past tragedies serve as a reminder of the potential consequences of inaction.The author of this article is a national security correspondent who focuses on the Pentagon in Washington D.C. They report on U.S. military activity and operations worldwide and analyze their impact. The author has extensive experience reporting from over two dozen countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan, and various regions in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. They are currently based in Karachi, Pakistan. Additionally, the author has participated in national security events such as the Reagan National Defense Forum and the German Marshall Fund. They have also received recognition for their work, including the Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence and the Joe Galloway Award.
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