US Department of Defense chiefs are frustrated by their government’s lack of action in dealing with Iran-backed attacks on US facilities across the region.
Iran-backed militias have been targeting American forces almost daily for over a month, totalling 61 attacks in which at least 59 staff have been wounded. They say their operations are in support of Palestinians and will continue as long as the United States backs the Israeli onslaught on Gaza.
In response, the Biden administration has so far approved three airstrikes on IRGC-affiliated facilities in Syria, the last of which on 12 November killed “seven militants”, according to US officials.
“Are we trying to deter future Iranian attacks like this,” a Pentagon official told the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity. “There’s no clear definition of what we are trying to deter.”
As Iran uses the war in Gaza to fuel its proxies’ actions against its archenemies Israel and the US, regime rhetoric is relishing the opportunity posed by the Hamas invasion of Israel on October 7. Thousands of terrorists invaded Israel killing at least 1,200 mostly civilians in the single most deadly day for Jews since the Holocaust. While Iran denies involvement, it funds the group tens of millions each year and supports it militarily.
“We have seen the first stage of expansion of the scope of the war by the resistance groups who make their own decisions,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian Monday, distancing himself from the proxy attacks on Israel and the US which have come from Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.
“And if the possible scenarios to stop the crimes of the Zionists do not come to fruition, we will probably witness a new situation in the region,” he warned. On Sunday, Iran’s Yemeni proxy, the Houthis, admitted hijacking what it had believed to be an Israeli-owned ship while on Monday, the situation on Israel’s northern border had escalated under its proxy Hezbollah.
The Biden administration is mindful of not escalating the conflict and turning it into a full-scale regional war that would inexorably drag in American troops. They have warned Iran and its proxies many times that the United States will not tolerate attacks on its forces and would retaliate. Warships and troops have also been brought to the region to deter further aggression, yet the attacks are continuing unabated.
However, if the attacks on US bases carry on at the current rate, it is only a matter of time before US military personnel get killed, forcing the administration to react.
Some in Washington say Biden’s softly-softly approach has emboldened the regime, not least since the recent hostage deal which saw five unlawfully detained US-Iranians released in exchange for the freeing up of $6bn of frozen Iranian funds in south Korea and a possible $10bn more in the offing.
Many attacks on US troops are carried out by one-way drones, which Iran manufactures on a large scale, even giving them to Russia to be used in its war against Ukraine.
“They keep shooting, waiting for us to respond. We don’t, so they keep shooting,” said Senator Kevin Cramer of the Armed Services Committee. “Our posture has to be a little more aggressive than just strictly defensive, because one of these days, we’re going to miss one of those drones.”