U.S Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin, has vowed that the U.S will take “all necessary actions” to defend its troops.
This was in response to a drone attack by Iran-backed militants on a U.S service base on the border of Jordan and Syria that killed three servicemen and injured dozens.
The attack on Sunday marks a major escalation in tensions that have engulfed the Middle East.
“Let me start with my outrage and sorrow (for) the deaths of three brave U.S troops in Jordan and for the other troops who were wounded,” Austin said at the start of a meeting with the NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, at the Pentagon.
“The President and I will not tolerate attacks on U.S forces and we will take all necessary actions to defend the U.S and our troops,” he said.
Austin’s comments came as the spectre of a direct US-Iranian military conflict drew closer following the drone attack, which marked the first time American military personnel have been killed by hostile fire in the Middle East since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on 7 October.
“Iran continues to destabilise the region, this includes backing terrorists who attack our ships in the Red Sea,” Stoltenberg said.
Prior to this, the White House’s national security council spokesperson, John Kirby, said that the U.S response to the drone strike on a US military outpost in Jordan will be “very consequential.”
“Joe Biden is considering his response options,” Kirby said.
Kirby did not speculate on the options being considered by the U.S President.
He said the drone attack was unacceptable, adding, “But we don’t seek a war with Iran. We’re not looking for a wider conflict in the Middle East.”
Meanwhile, Kirby described talks aimed at brokering a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas as constructive.
He said a new deal was not close but that there had been “very good discussions” with Qatar, Egypt and Israel.
Joe Biden is under pressure from Republicans to strike Iran directly, and even bomb Tehran, after three U.S troops were killed in a drone attack on a military outpost in Jordan.
US forces have faced a near-daily barrage of drone and missile strikes in Iraq and Syria since the 7 October attack on Israel by Hamas.
However, the attack on Tower 22 draws the U.S much closer to a direct conflict with Iran, an outcome both sides insist they wish to avoid, but may now be unable to prevent as the incidents proliferate and escalate in impact.
Iran has denied any involvement in the attacks but Islamic Resistance in Iraq have claimed responsibility as part of efforts, galvanised by the Israel-Hamas war, to try to drive US troops out of Iraq and Syria.
Biden Meets National Security Team
Later, U.S President, Joe Biden met with members of his national security team to discuss the attack on U.S service members at a military outpost in Jordan.
According to the White House, among those present were the White House’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, U.S Defence Seccretary Lloyd Austin, the Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, the Homeland Security Adviser Liz Sherwood Randall, the National Security Council’s Coordinator for the Middle East, Brett McGurk.
Experts say that Biden’s response options could range anywhere from targeting Iranian forces outside to even inside Iran, or opting for a more cautious retaliatory attack solely against the Iran-backed militants responsible.