‘Significant Escalation’: Iranian Proxies Target U.S. Military Bases in Middle East
U.S. forces in the Middle East have come under attack 13 times in the past week, a Pentagon spokesman confirmed Tuesday, and the attacks have injured at least two dozen military personnel. U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder said the Pentagon held Iran responsible for the attacks and warned of “the prospect for more significant escalation against U.S. forces and personnel across the region in the very near-term.”
“Between October 17th and the 24th, U.S. and coalition forces have been attacked at least 10 separate times in Iraq and three separate times in Syria via a mix of one-way attack drones and rockets,” Ryder explained at a Pentagon press briefing Tuesday.
At least 24 American military personnel were wounded in the attacks, U.S. Central Command told NBC News, and a civilian contractor died of cardiac arrest during a shelter-in-place order, which turned out to be a false alarm. On October 18, two drones targeted al-Tanf military base in southern Syria, injuring 20 military personnel and destroying a hangar housing small aircraft. The same day, two separate drone attacks at al-Asad base in western Iraq wounded four military personnel.
The U.S. military maintains a small presence on the ground in Syria and Iraq to deter a resurgence of the Islamic State. There are approximately 900 U.S. troops in Syria and approximately 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose confederacy of Iran-backed militias, claimed responsibility for the attack on al-Tanf base.
On October 19, a U.S. Navy ship in the Red Sea intercepted and shot down four cruise missiles and 14 drones launched by the Iran-backed Houthi militia, based in Yemen. “We cannot say for certain what these missiles and drones were targeting but they were launched from Yemen heading north along the Red Sea potentially to targets in Israel,” Ryder reported last week.
“We know that the groups conducting these attacks are supported by the IRGC [Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps] and the Iranian regime,” Ryder said Tuesday. “What we are seeing is the prospect for more significant escalation against U.S. forces and personnel across the region in the very near-term coming from Iranian proxy forces and ultimately from Iran.”
“We’ve already deployed a significant number of additional U.S. military capabilities into the region to bolster our regional deterrence efforts, strengthen our capabilities there and enhance our ability to respond to a range of contingencies,” Ryder told the press.
Since Hamas terrorists invaded Israel and slaughtered more than 1,400 Israelis on October 7, the U.S. military has sent two aircraft carrier groups and extra fighter squadrons to the eastern Mediterranean Sea, near the zone of conflict. Other units stationed at U.S. military bases have received orders to prepare to deploy.
However, Ryder declined to say whether the U.S. military was planning any counterstrikes on Iran-allied targets. “We will do everything necessary to protect and defend our forces,” he stated. “If and when we would decide to respond, we will do so at a time and place of our choosing.”
“Since that Hamas terrorist attack, we’ve also been crystal clear that we do not want to see the situation in Israel widen into a broader regional conflict,” Ryder explained.
“That conflict has started,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins insisted on “Washington Watch.” “We’ve seen our own troops in Syria and Iraq being attacked by those that are funded and supported by Iran.”
In the meantime, Israeli forces have clashed with Iran-backed militants near the northern border with Lebanon, at sea near the Gaza Strip, and in the West Bank, where The Wall Street Journal reported that the Islamic Jihad has strengthened its position, armed by weapons smuggled from Iran. Israel on Wednesday conducted airstrikes on enemy positions in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, and Syria.
Perkins lamented the Biden administration’s “schizophrenic foreign policy, stating, “we fund Palestinian Authority, Hamas, who attacks Israel. … We release money to Iran. They then attack our allies. This makes absolutely no sense.”
On “Washington Watch,” Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) responded that the Biden administration has been pursuing an “appeasement” policy toward Iran. “You can’t have an appeasement position … against a terrorist regime. You have to stand strong like the Trump administration did.”
“The increasing tempo of attacks on U.S. positions and the vital assets of its regional partners is reminiscent of a similar campaign Iran embarked upon in 2019,” noted National Review Senior Writer Noah Rothman. “Then as now, the president was reluctant to respond directly to those attacks for fear that such a response would provoke a wider regional war.”
But, Rothman added, “the provocations did not end until the United States responded disproportionately with the strike that neutralized Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qasem Soleimani.”
President Biden’s term in office has been punctuated by foreign policy crises, including America’s controversial 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan, Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, and Hamas’s 2023 terror attack on Israel. “You didn’t see any of these wars, any of these type of attacks when [Trump] was president because he was strong on foreign policy,” Steube pointed out. “We have a weak Joe Biden in the White House that doesn’t stand for anything but appeasing our enemies.”
Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.