How to strike back after deadly drone attack? US has many options, but must weigh consequences | AP

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Avi Melamed quoted in this article by LOLITA C. BALDOR and TARA COPP, ”How to strike back after deadly drone attack? US has many options, but must weigh consequences” | as Originally published in Associated Press [AP] |January 30, 2024.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has made it clear the U.S. will strike back after a deadly drone attack killed three service members and wounded more than 40 at a small base in Jordan over the weekend. What isn’t yet clear is who will be hit, where, and how hard.

Biden has a wide array of options, but the U.S. must walk a fine line: A weak response will do little to deter further attacks by Iran-backed militia groups, while a major assault risks expanding the turmoil in the Middle East and drawing America into a wider conflict.

On Tuesday, Biden bluntly said “yes” when asked if he’d decided how to respond to the attack. But he provided no details, and added that the U.S. wants to avoid triggering a broader Middle East war. “That’s not what I’m looking for,” he said.

Still, the three service members are the first to be killed in militia strikes since the start of Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza. And their deaths have triggered demands for a strong American response.

Target options range from inside Iran, including on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, to Iranian ships at sea and Tehran-backed militia groups and key militant leaders in Iraq and Syria. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby raised the possibility that the U.S. will take a “tiered approach” with several actions over a period of time.

Here’s a look as some options.

DIRECT STRIKE ON IRAN

Officials across the administration have said the U.S. believes Iran bears responsibility for arming, funding and supporting the militias that have been waging an escalating campaign of drone, missile and rocket strikes on American forces in Iraq, Syria and now Jordan.

“I do hold them responsible in a sense because they’re supplying the weapons to the people who did it,.” Biden said Tuesday.

Striking inside Iran — including on the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force — would send a strong, direct message to Tehran.

Some argue that such a move is needed, because U.S. strikes on Iran-backed militias in recent months have not deterred them. But it also would be the riskiest move, due to worries it would inflame the militias and enrage Tehran.

Attacking Iranian assets or leaders outside the country may be more palatable. The U.S. did that in 2020, when it killed Quds Force leader Gen. Qassem Soleimani, with a drone strike in Iraq, in response to attacks on U.S. bases there and an assault on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Iran responded, launching a barrage of ballistic missiles at al-Asad air base in Iraq, injuring dozens of U.S. forces, with most suffering traumatic brain injuries.

Former Israeli intelligence official and Middle East analyst Avi Melamed said Iran has billions of dollars in military investment projects in Syria and by striking those the U.S. could punish Tehran without the escalation threat of a direct strike on Iran. One example, he said, is a large compound near Boukamal that is used for ballistic missile storage. The U.S. has previously struck facilities there in response to militia attacks.

“There is no shortage of military targets (in Syria) that the American administration can target and cause significant damage to the Iranian regime,” Melamed said.

HIT MILITIA GROUPS AGAIN

The most likely move would be to hit Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria again. As of Tuesday, those groups had launched 166 attacks on U.S. military installations since Oct. 18, including 67 in Iraq, 98 in Syria and now one in Jordan, according to a U.S. military official.

On Tuesday, one of the major Iran-backed militia groups, Kataib Hezbollah, announced in a statement “the suspension of military and security operations against the occupation forces” in Iraq, referring to U.S. troops. The group, which U.S. officials consider a top suspect in the Jordan attack, said the suspension was to “prevent embarrassment to the Iraqi government.”

In response, Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said “actions speak louder than words.”

The attacks on U.S. forces have put the Iraqi government in an awkward position. Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani was brought to power by Iranian-allied factions but he has also worked to maintain a good relationship with the U.S.

The U.S. has struck back at the militias just a handful of times since Oct. 27. On that day, U.S. fighter jets struck two weapons and ammunition storage sites in eastern Syria near Boukamal that were used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iranian-backed groups. On Nov. 8, fighter jets dropped bombs on an IRGC weapons storage facility near Maysulun in Deir el-Zour. On Nov. 12, U.S. airstrikes targeted a training facility and a safe house in the Bulbul district of Mayadin. On Dec. 26, the U.S. launched strikes on three locations in Iraq used by Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups, and on Jan. 23, the U.S. struck three sites in Iraq, again targeting Kataib Hezbollah (…)

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Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri, Mike Pesoli, Joshua Boak, Sagar Meghani and Kevin Freking in Washington and Abby Sewell in Beirut contributed to this report.


Avi Melamed is a former Israeli intelligence official who went on to serve as deputy and then as senior Arab affairs adviser to Jerusalem Mayors Teddy Kollek and Ehud Olmert, operating as a negotiator during the first and second intifadas. He is the author of “Inside The Middle East — Entering A New Era,” and his latest docuseries, “The Seam Line,” available on the Izzy streaming platform, focuses on Jerusalem’s flashpoints and his work during the intifadas.


Avi Melamed quoted in this article by LOLITA C. BALDOR and TARA COPP, ”How to strike back after deadly drone attack? US has many options, but must weigh consequences” | as Originally published in Associated Press [AP] |January 31, 2024.

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Avi Melamed
Avi Melamedhttps://insidethemiddle-east.com
Avi Melamed is an expert on current affairs in the Arab & Muslim World and their impact on Israel & the Middle East. A former Israeli Intelligence Official & Senior Official on Arab Affairs, Fluent in Arabic, English, and Hebrew, he has held high-risk Government, Senior Advisory, Intelligence & Counter-Terrorist intelligence positions in Arab cities & communities - often in very sensitive times - on behalf of Israeli Government agencies. He is the Founder & CEO of Inside the Middle East | Intelligence Perspectives - an apolitical non-partisan curriculum using intelligence methodology to examine the Middle East. As an Author, Educator, Expert, and Strategic Intelligence Analyst, Avi provides Intelligence Analysis, Briefings, and Geopolitical Tours to diplomats, Israeli and foreign policymakers, global media outlets, and a wide variety of international businesses, organizations, and private clients on a range of Israel and Middle East Affairs.

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