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US bolsters defences around Jordan base as it readies strikes in response to drone attack

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The US has bolstered defences at a base in Jordan that was attacked by Iran-backed militants as it prepares for a wider US response to a drone attack that killed three service members, a US official said on Friday. Even as a larger US military response seemed imminent, some Iran-backed factions pledged to continue to attack US forces in the region. In a statement released on Friday, one of Iraq’s strongest Iran-backed militias, Harakat al-Nujaba, announced its plans to continue military operations against US troops, despite other allied factions having called off their attacks in the wake of a Sunday drone strike that killed three US service members in Jordan.
While previous US responses have been more limited, the attack on Tower 22, as the Jordan outpost is known, and the deaths of the three service members has crossed a line, the official said. The base was struck by an Iranian-made drone fired from Iraq, the official said.

In the days since the attack, the US has bolstered the defences around Tower 22, which houses about 350 US troops and sits near the demilitarised zone on the border between Jordan and Syria. The Iraqi border is only 6 miles (10 kilometers) away.

In response, the US is weighing response options to include striking militia leaders. The US options under consideration include targets in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, where the Iranian-made drone that killed the service members was fired from, the official said. The US has blamed the Jordan attack on the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a coalition of Iranian-backed militias.

On Thursday Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin indicated that the US response against the militias would widen.

“At this point, it’s time to take away even more capability than we’ve taken in the past,” Austin said in his first press conference since he was hospitalised on January 1 due to complications from prostate cancer treatment. Austin said that Iran has had a hand in the attacks by supplying and training the militias. The US has tried to communicate through backchannels to Iran over the last few months to get them to rein in the militant groups, a second US official said. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details that have not been acknowledged publicly.

The US has also tried more limited military responses in a series of strikes against weapons storage sites and training areas. So far, the US response has not deterred the groups, which have attacked US facilities at least 166 times since October.

Kataib Hezbollah, another powerful Iranian-backed Iraqi militia, which has been watched closely by US officials, said on Tuesday it would “suspend military and security operations against the occupying forces” to avoid embarrassing the Iraqi government.

The attack on Tower 22 led to the first deaths of US service members since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out and President Joe Biden, Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. CQ Brown were travelling to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Friday to be with the families of the fallen as the soldiers’ remains are honoured at a dignified transfer ceremony.

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