The White House has blamed an “Iranian-backed” umbrella group in Iraq for an attack that killed three American troops at a base in Jordan
President Joe Biden’s administration has identified the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella organization for several Islamist Shia militias in the region, as the group responsible for the drone strike that killed three American soldiers and wounded over 40 others on Sunday.
The attack was “planned, resourced, and facilitated” by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday in a press briefing. The group consists of several militias, including Kataib Hezbollah, which has launched multiple rocket and drone strikes against US forces in the region since the Israel-Hamas war began in October.
A drone packed with explosives struck a secretive US outpost in Jordan, near the Iraqi and Syrian borders, on Sunday, causing the first American fatalities in months of attacks by various militant groups working in solidarity with Hamas. Biden has vowed to strike back “at a time and in a manner of our choosing.” He told reporters on Tuesday that he had decided on a response, though he offered no details.
Kirby suggested a multi-faceted retaliation, saying it “won’t just be a one-off. As I said, the first thing you see will not be the last thing.” However, he reiterated a White House claim that Biden is trying to avoid a wider conflict with Iran. “We’re not looking for a broader conflict. We’re not looking for a war with Iran.”
Biden blamed Iran for supplying the weapons that Islamic militants have used in attacking US forces in the Middle East more than 150 times in recent months. He has faced political pressure to respond aggressively, including calls by Senator Lindsey Graham and other Republican lawmakers to launch a devastating strike against Tehran.
“We have obligations in the region, including those to our troops and our facilities,” Kirby said. “We will have to do, we will do, what we need to do to make sure that those responsible are held properly accountable.”
The Iranian government has denied involvement in Sunday’s drone attack. Kataib Hezbollah said on Tuesday that it was suspending military operations against Washington’s “occupation forces” to prevent embarrassment of the Iraqi government. “We will continue to defend our people in Gaza in other ways,” the group added.
Iranian officials have pledged to “decisively respond” to any attack. Major General Hossein Salami, the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said on Wednesday that no US threat against his country would “be left unanswered.” He added, “We are not looking for war but are not afraid of war, either.”