Iran Denies Ordering Drone Strike That Killed U.S. Troops in Jordan


The deaths of three U.S. soldiers in a drone strike in Jordan — the first-known American military fatalities from hostile fire in the widening Middle East crisis — are likely to increase pressure on President Biden, who has tried to limit the American response in order to keep regional tensions from spreading further.

The Biden administration said that the strike at a remote military outpost near the Syrian border — which also injured 34 other service members — was carried out by “radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq.”

As Mr. Biden warned that the United States would respond, American officials said that the deaths will require a different level of action from what the White House has ordered in the nearly four months since Israel’s war with Hamas sparked broader turmoil in the Middle East.

What remained unclear was whether Mr. Biden would strike targets inside Iran itself, as his Republican critics urged him to do, with one saying he would be a “coward” if he did not.

A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Nasser Kanaani, said at a news conference on Monday that the militias “do not take orders” from Iran and act independently to oppose “any aggression and occupation.” He said that accusations that Iran had ordered the strike were “baseless,” and blamed Israel and the United States for fueling instability in the region.

Now Mr. Biden must decide how far he is willing to go in terms of retaliation at the risk of a wider war that he has sought to avoid ever since the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas touched off the current Middle East crisis.

Until now, the president had carefully calibrated his responses to the more than 150 attacks by Iranian-backed militias on American forces in the region since Oct. 7. He essentially ignored the majority that were successfully intercepted or did little to no damage while authorizing limited U.S. strikes focused mainly on buildings, weapons and infrastructure after attacks that were more brazen, most notably against the Houthis in Yemen who have targeted shipping in the Red Sea.

John F. Kirby, the strategic communications coordinator at the White House National Security Council, said on Monday that the Biden administration was still “working through” the available options for a response.

“We’ve got to do what we have to do to protect our troops in our facilities,” he told NBC News, adding that “we don’t want a wider war with Iran. We don’t want a wider war in the region, but we got to do what we have to do.”

Iran has long armed, trained, financed and advised militia movements in the Middle East that share its enemies — a loosely connected network of proxy forces known as the “Axis of Resistance” that stretches from Yemen through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and down to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

While Iranian officials have publicly denied being involved in or ordering Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, they have warned that their regional network would open multiple fronts against Israel if its retaliatory war against Hamas in Gaza continues.

Leily Nikounazar and Peter Baker contributed reporting.

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