Middle East: why did the US wait days before retaliating against drone attacks on its troops?

Middle East: why did the US wait days before retaliating against drone attacks on its troops?
Middle East: why did the US wait days before retaliating against drone attacks on its troops?

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Photo caption,

US struck the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and affiliated militias in Iraq and Syria, in seven locations in total, on Friday

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  • author, Bernd Debusmann Jr and Kayla Epstein
  • Roll, From BBC News in Washington and New York
  • 42 minutes ago

The US struck the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and affiliated militias in Iraq and Syria, in seven locations in total. The bombers struck 85 individual targets, according to American defense officials.

Attacks had been expected for several days – and US President Joe Biden’s government began to face questions and criticism from Republican Party opponents about the timing and forcefulness of the country’s response.

Foreign policy experts, however, point out that the approach allowed Iran to withdraw personnel, potentially avoiding a broader conflict between the US and Iran in the region.

“This would allow us to degrade the ability of these Iranian-backed militias to attack US forces, but without escalating,” Mick Mulroy, former US deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, told the BBC. “Though it probably won’t be a deterrent to future attacks.”

The ultimate benefit, he said, would be to “avoid a direct war” between the US and Iran.

U.S. officials blamed an Iranian-backed militia group, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, for the attack in Jordan. The organization – an umbrella group of multiple militias – is believed to have been armed, financed and trained by Iran.

Iran has denied any involvement in the drone attack, which also injured 41 US soldiers.

Biden said: “Let all those who might seek to harm us know this: If you harm an American, we will respond.”

military equipment

Credit, Getty Images

Photo caption,

More than 100 US soldiers were injured during Iranian missile attacks on US bases in 2020

Defense and security officials said the weather made it difficult to retaliate more quickly – and that Friday presented the best conditions for launching attacks.

Although the White House and Pentagon also repeatedly stated that they avoided “telegraphing” operations in the days leading up to the attacks, experts believe they did just that – with the ultimate intention of avoiding a wider war with Iran.

Hussein Ibish of Washington’s Gulf Arab States Institute said the delay appeared to be a US signal of what it “is not going to do, which is attack inside Iran.”

Mulroy told the BBC it was possible the US allowed Iranian Revolutionary Guard personnel “to leave the facilities that will be attacked.”

Experts have noted that the US must walk a fine line between deterring a country like Iran and not triggering a larger conflict.

“Telegraphing” the attacks could allow the U.S. to calibrate the operation, applying a strategy that is “not too hard, not too soft,” said Bradley Bowman, senior director of the Center for Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. , based in Washington DC (USA).

This approach “would inflict pain on our adversaries so that they stop attacking our forces, but not so much that they feel the need for massive escalation, thus avoiding a regional war.”

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Friday that Washington will not “telegraph future operations” but confirmed that “there will be additional response actions taken in the coming days.”

Republican criticism

Republican lawmakers, however, were quick to condemn Biden’s approach as too soft on Iran.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, the most powerful Republican in Congress, said after the attacks that “public concern and excessive signaling undermine our ability to bring a decisive end to the spate of attacks experienced in recent months.”

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas called Biden’s response “anemic” and stated that “it only emboldened the Ayatollahs further.”

“Only new, more devastating attacks against Iranian forces will frighten the ayatollahs,” he wrote.

Sen. Markwayne Mullin cited more aggressive actions by former Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump as a contrast to Biden’s plan of attack.

“Deterrence is not about delayed half measures,” he wrote in X. “Deterrence is taking the head off the snake.”

Ibish, of Washington’s Gulf Arab States Institute, noted, however, that the Biden administration may be trying to avoid the domestic political pitfalls that would arise if the US were drawn into a more serious conflict.

“If they attacked Iran, Republican standard-bearers like Donald Trump would denounce Biden for being a warmonger,” he said. “It’s a political trap. Everyone understands that, so they won’t fall into that trap.”

What do you know about the US attacks and what is the reaction of Iraq, Syria and Iran?

According to a statement from United States Central Command, American forces deployed multiple aircraft, including B-1 long-range bombers, striking a total of 85 targets in seven locations – four in Syria and three in Iraq – over 30 minutes. More than 125 precision munitions were used, according to the note.

American General Douglas Sims stated that the B-1 bombers “took a single direct route from the US” and managed to “refuel while in the air”.

He added that he was “quite confident” that the attacks caused “quite significant” damage to the targets and that a more detailed assessment could be possible from this Saturday.

The facilities hit included command and control operations, as well as munitions supply chain units of “militia groups and their IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard) sponsors, who facilitated attacks against U.S. and coalition forces,” the Pentagon added. .

Logistics centers and drone storage units were also targeted.

According to reports from the AFP news agency, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group and a network of sources on Syrian territory, said that at least 13 pro-Iran fighters were killed in eastern Syria.

There were no attacks on Iranian soil. An Iranian warship in the Red Sea suspected of being involved in Houthi attacks on commercial vessels was also not targeted.

Following the operation, a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Tehran “strongly condemned” the US strikes as violations of “sovereignty and territorial integrity”

The Syrian government cited deaths in the east of the country and stated that the “occupation” of Syrian territories by the United States “cannot continue”.

The government of Iraq, which also hosts American troops on its territory, said that at least 16 people, including civilians, were killed in the attacks and that another 25 people were injured. Baghdad also accuses the United States of putting Iraq and the region “on the brink.”

The article is in Portuguese

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