The drone that killed three US soldiers and wounded dozens at a base in Jordan was not shot down. It was apparently mistaken for a US drone returning to the facility. Two Washington officials said preliminary reports suggest that while the enemy drone was flying at low altitude, another American drone was returning to Tower 22, which is why it could have passed to the base by mistake. Consequently, no effort was made to take it down. The preliminary conclusion of this report was first published by The Wall Street Journal. The White House declined to comment on the discovery.
During the attack, one of the trailers where troops were sleeping took the brunt of the attack, while nearby trailers suffered damage from the explosion and flying debris. Of the 34 wounded soldiers, most had cuts, bruises, traumatic brain injuries and similar injuries. Eight of them were evacuated for medical reasons and the most seriously injured is in critical but stable condition.
The base in Jordan began as an outpost guarding the border, and then saw the American presence increase after US forces entered Syria at the end of 2015. The small facility includes US engineering, aviation, logistics and security troops, with some 350 US Army and Air Force personnel deployed. The US does not seek a war with Iran.
The conclusions of this report were given to be announced almost at the same time that the White House announced this Monday that it is not seeking war with Iran, even as President Joe Biden promised retaliatory measures. The Democratic administration believes that Tehran was behind the attack. Biden met with members of his national security team in the White House Crisis Room to discuss the latest developments. The attack, which the US government attributes to militias under guardianship of Iran, adds another level of complexity to an already tense situation in the Middle East, as Biden tries to prevent the war between Israel and Hamas from escalating into a broader regional conflict.
“The president and I will not tolerate attacks against forces and we will take all necessary measures to defend the United States and our troops,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin declared on Monday when meeting at the Pentagon with the secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Jens Stoltenberg.
This weekend’s drone strike was just one of dozens of attacks on US troops in the Middle East since Hamas launched attacks on Israel on October 7, triggering the war in Gaza, but it is the first in in which U.S. service members have been killed. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby reiterated Monday that the U.S. is not seeking to get involved in another conflict in the Middle East. The groups — including Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the Kataeb Hezbollah in Iraq—say the attacks are in response to Israeli military operations in Gaza.
“We are not seeking war with Iran. “We are not seeking a further escalation of tensions than has already occurred,” Kirby told reporters. “That said, this is a very serious attack. It has had lethal consequences. We will respond, and we will respond appropriately.”
Almost two days passed after the attack until Iran broke its silence. This Monday, the Iranian authorities denied being behind the Jordan attack. The agency Iranian state news outlet IRNA quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani as speaking about the attack that Iran was alleged to be behind. “These claims are made with specific political objectives to reverse the realities of the region,” he said. For its part, Iraq’s government condemned the drone attack in an apparent effort to distance itself from an attack likely carried out by Iranian-backed militias, which have a strong presence inside Iraq.
Republicans have blamed Biden for doing too little to deter Iranian militias, which have carried out at least 150 attacks on US troops in the region since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas. On Sunday, the Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump called the attack “another horrible and tragic consequence of Joe Biden’s weakness and surrender.” John Bolton, who served as Trump’s national security adviser, said Iran has not paid a price for the havoc that its allies have unleashed in the region. He suggested that the Biden administration could send a strong message to Tehran with attacks on Iranian ships in the Red Sea, on Iranian air defenses along the Iraqi border and on bases that have been used to train and supply militant groups for years. “Until Iran pays for its actions, you are not going to restore deterrence, you are not going to put belligerence on the decline,” he said.
The attack in Jordan came as US authorities saw signs of progress in negotiations to reach an agreement between Israel and Hamas to release the more than 100 hostages held in Gaza in exchange for a prolonged pause in the fighting. Senior US, Israeli, Egyptian and Qatari officials held talks on Sunday in France over a nascent framework for a hostage deal. Israel said there remained “major gaps” but called the talks constructive and said they would continue over the next week. US attacks and sinks Houthi ships in Red Sea for first time.
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