US doesn’t want wider war in Middle East: Biden

U.S. President Joe Biden arrives to board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, on Jan. 30, 2024. (AFP Photo)

U.S. President Joe Biden said Washington does not want wider war in the Middle East, amid ongoing tensions with Iran over the recent drone attack on U.S. troops in Jordan.

Facing growing pressure in an election year, Biden said he held Iran responsible for supplying the weapons to the people who carried out the attack that killed three U.S. troops.

Biden, who was hitting the campaign trail in Florida, has previously blamed Iran-backed militias for the first fatal attack on U.S. troops in the region since the Israel-Hamas war broke out in October.

“Yes,” Biden told reporters at the White House when asked if he had decided on his response as he prepared to depart for two campaign events in Florida, but he did not give further details on what actions he would take.

“I don’t think we need a wider war in the Middle East. That’s not what I’m looking for,” he added when asked about fears that taking on Iran could inflame a broader conflict.

Republicans have urged the 81-year-old Democrat to punish Iran for the drone strike on a U.S. military facility near the Jordanian-Syrian border Sunday, with some urging direct strikes on Iran itself.

But Biden’s administration believes hitting Iranian territory could cause the region to erupt, with strikes on Iranian-backed militias and possibly on Iranian Revolutionary Guard facilities in other countries more likely, U.S. media reported.

The White House on Monday promised a “very consequential” response.

Asked whether Iran was to blame for the attack on Jordan, Biden replied: “I do hold them responsible, in the sense that they’re supplying the weapons to the people who did it.”

Biden added: “We’ll have that discussion” when asked if a direct link to Iran had been established.

Tensions have escalated sharply in the region following the Jordan attack, already unstable after the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel and Israel’s devastating response in Gaza.

The Kremlin, a close ally of Tehran, on Tuesday called for a de-escalation in the Middle East.

“In our view, the overall level of tension is very alarming and, on the contrary, now is the time for steps to de-escalate tensions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow.

“This is the only thing that can help us prevent further spreading of the conflict, especially the Middle East conflict, and somehow achieve de-conflict-ion and de-escalation.”

Sunday’s suicide drone attack killed three American troops and injured at least 34 others at Tower 22, a remote military installation in Jordan near the Syrian and Iraqi borders. An umbrella group of Iranian-backed militias calling itself the Islamic Resistance in Iraq has claimed responsibility.

The group has been carrying out drone and missile attacks on U.S. forces in the region for months amid Israel’s ongoing war against the besieged Gaza Strip. Sunday’s fatalities were the first to have resulted from the attacks. Most others were intercepted or resulted in minor injuries to American forces.

China also warned against a “cycle of retaliation” in the Middle East.

Beijing has close ties with both Russia and Iran, with all three seeking to challenge what they say is Washington’s global hegemony.

By Agencies

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