April 21, 2024
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  • Source: FreePressers
  • 02/13/2024
FPI / February 13, 2024

By John J. Metzler

The attack on Tower 22 was a accident waiting to happen. And it did. But then following the deadly drone assault on this exposed U.S. base in Jordan killing three soldiers, the clock started ticking. Unleashing massive American retaliatory airstrikes responding to the Iranian militia attacks on U.S. forces were just a matter of time.

But then we waited nearly a week to respond following President Joe Biden’s dictum; “We will respond at the time and place of our choosing.” Sounds tough, but…

Telegraphing to the world and your enemy that you are coming echoed a kind of bravado that plays well in the media or a movie but equally allowed the militants and terrorist commanders to shift their locations and to move valuable assets before the counterstrikes.

Elsewhere Iranian proxies continue to attack American interests from the Red Sea where the Houthi rebels harass merchant shipping, to sustained assaults on isolated American garrisons in Iraq, Jordan and Syria. Since Hamas started the Gaza war with an heinous and unprovoked offensive against Israel on Oct. 7, there have been over 160 attacks on American interests in the Middle East causing many causalities but no fatalities until last week. The killing of the three U.S. Army soldiers and the wounding of 42 others upped the ante.

Firstly, Tower 22 base was highly vulnerable to deadly drone strikes. The facility of 350 troops sits on the border of Jordan with Syria.

This outpost and a string of others, politely put, are sitting ducks for Iranian insurgents to attack and harass at will. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an Iranian-backed group, was responsible for the incident. The drone was also Iranian-made.

The American response is justified but too late. It militarily punishes the terrorists but may not deter them from further actions. This is the gamble. The actions can also ignite a wider Mideast war which already has two fronts, Gaza and the Red Sea. In both cases Iran is already an active player.

The air attacks were wide-ranging, 85 targets across Iraq and Syria, aiming to degrade the capacities of Iranian-backed militias and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, (IRGC). Later other Anglo/American strikes pounded Houthi rebel positions in Yemen.

The Administration keeps stressing it wants “no conflict with Iran” the paymaster of a gaggle of terrorists and militias who plague the region, serving as the cat’s paw of the Islamic Republic.

Why are we in such exposed positions in the first place? We are being drawn into the Iranian vortex where the Islamic Republic can turn up or turn down the heat and pressure on 3,500 vulnerable American forces be they in Iraq, Syria or the Red Sea?

While the Biden Administration has longed for diplomatic re-engagement with Tehran and a resumption of the Obama-era Iran Nuclear Deal scrapped by Donald Trump, the fact remains that Washington isn’t in a position to play nice with the ayatollahs as long as Iranian proxies provoke sustained regional chaos.

Another reason is Oil. Face it, the Biden Administration choose to renege on American energy independence; and thus we are again becoming dependent on foreign oil, not from Iran but from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc. In the meantime, the Iranian mullahs are flush with money from their own petroleum sales to People’s Republic of China.

Like the Greek chorus, both sides say they don’t seek a wider war. The Biden Administration has been careful not to hit Iranian targets directly as to avoid a direct confrontation with the Islamic Republic. President Biden states, air attacks “will continue at times and places of our choosing” but added his country “does not seek conflict in the Middle East”.

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi vows his country will not initiate a war but shall “respond strongly.”

Nonetheless events are pulling Washington deeper into the Mideast vortex as every day becomes closer to the November U.S. presidential and congressional elections.

Though the Biden Administration had not responded to over 160 earlier attacks on American forces in the region, these Iranian proxies crossed the proverbial red line. Thus a Tough Guy approach with the firing of cruise missiles lighting up the Middle East night sky offers a dramatic backdrop to lessen domestic political pressures and to jolt Teheran into putting its Shiite militias back into their box.

Will there be a war with Iran? Neither Washington nor Teheran want military escalation but unintended consequences loom.

There are many moving parts in this Middle Eastern maze; the region faces unprecedented chaos.

John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism the Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014).

Free Press International
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