Iran promises ‘decisive’ response to any US attack over drone strike which killed three soldiers

World

A militant group that’s among those suspected of an attack that killed three US soldiers is pausing operations to “prevent embarrassment” to the Iraqi government.

Kata’ib Hezbollah is one of several factions American officials believe may have carried out the drone attack in Jordan.

Three army reservists died and more than 40 were injured in Sunday’s attack on the US base, with President Joe Biden promising to respond.

Middle East latest: Iraqi militant group vows to suspend attacks on US forces

The group announced in a statement “the suspension of military and security operations against the occupation forces in order to prevent embarrassment to the Iraqi government”.

US forces in the Middle East have faced dozens of attacks blamed on Iran-backed militia since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

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Map of Jordan

Kata’ib Hezbollah is an elite armed faction that’s close to Iran, and was founded in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

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It views American troops as foreign occupiers and while it technically answers to Iraq’s prime minister, it has until now defied government statements urging an end to attacks on US forces.

The US designated it a terrorist organisation in 2009, and an American drone strike killed its leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in 2020 at Baghdad airport.

An Iraqi government spokesman said on Monday it was “monitoring with a great concern the alarming security developments in the region” and called for “an end to the cycle of violence”.

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2:50

How will the US avoid escalation?

However, US officials are believed to be still determining exactly who attacked the Tower 22 base in northeastern Jordan.

The base includes engineering, aviation, logistics and security troops, with about 350 US army and air force personnel deployed.

Read more:
Who are the Iran-backed militia groups carrying out attacks?
The West is now embroiled in widening Middle East conflict
British warship shoots down Houthi drone

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(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Biden said on Tuesday he’d made up his mind on how to respond to the deaths of soldiers William Jerome Rivers, 46, Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, and Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23.

Experts have said he faces one of the most important decisions of his presidency – how to respond robustly without triggering a wider conflict in an already extremely tense region.

Mr Biden did not give any details of his response, but added: “I don’t think we need a wider war in the Middle East. That’s not what I’m looking for.”

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2:12

US weighs up drone strike response

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the retaliation could come in phases.

“It’s very possible that what you’ll see is a tiered approach here, not just a single action, but potentially multiple actions over a period of time,” he told reporters on Air Force One.

Meanwhile, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said commanders were still looking into reports that failure to shoot down the drone as it approached the base may have been a human error.

US officials, speaking anonymously, have said it could have been mistaken for a returning drone of their own.

There have been 166 attacks on US military installations since 18 October, shortly after the Hamas terror attack on Israel on 7 October, according to a US military official.

It’s said to comprise 67 in Iraq, 98 in Syria and one in Jordan.

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