The American military command for the Middle East hit more than 85 targets in seven different places on Friday evening Belgian time with more than 125 precision munitions in just half an hour, Centcom itself said in a statement on X. The target: the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and other pro-Iranian militias in Iraq and Syria.
Command and information centers were hit, as well as missiles and a drone warehouse belonging to militias and their sponsors from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who facilitated attacks against the US and coalition forces, Centcom said.
It was an attack by such a drone that killed three American soldiers at their base in Jordan last week. President Biden could not leave the deaths of three American soldiers, the highest American death toll in the region in the past three years, unanswered. If only for Biden’s image. For Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, the drone attack was “yet another tragic consequence of Biden’s weakness.”
Shortly before the American response, the bodies of the three arrived back in their home country with military honors and in the presence of President Biden.
There is more to come, Biden promises
Tonight’s American attack will have a sequel, Biden promises in a written communication. “Our response started today. It will continue in the moments and places we choose. The US is not looking for a conflict in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world. But let it be clear to anyone who wants to hurt us: if you harm an American, we will respond.”
But it is striking: even though America targets (pro-)Iranian targets, America does not carry out attacks on Iran itself. CNN also knows from official sources that the US does not intend to do so. Attacking Iran would mean a massive escalation of tensions, which officials say is unlikely.
Republican hawks like Tom Cotton, however, think it is time to attack Iran itself: “The only response to these attacks must be devastating retaliation against Iranian terrorist forces, both in Iran and in the rest of the Middle East. Anything less than that confirms that Biden is a coward, unworthy of a commander in chief.”
This clearly shows the balancing act that President Biden and America face. On the one hand, show your muscles and make it clear that you will not attack America with impunity. But on the other hand, also careful maneuvering in a powder keg that is about to explode.
Short, sharp, but no shock, is how CNN summarizes last night’s attack. The attack had to be loud and clear, but America is of course capable of hurting Iranian militias much more. It is therefore doubtful whether this attack will have long lasting reverberations among the militias. And that is probably why President Biden warns that “this will continue”.
Iran itself was not attacked
According to CNN, the targets had been warned that something was coming. Not only to keep the number of fatalities low, but probably also to make it clear that the attack came from Washington and not from Israel. Because that would only escalate the situation in the Middle East.
Because no matter how precarious the situation in the Middle East is, it is also clear that America and Iran do not want an open war. For Biden, elections are coming and an open war will lead to more dead American soldiers and, for the majority of the voting public, is again a pointless use of government money. Iran, on the other hand, is dealing with an underperforming economy and internal unrest. Handing out pinpricks, including through the Houthi rebels in the Red Sea, is a more interesting option for the regime in Tehran than war.