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Biden Retaliates on Iran, Allows Room for De-Escalation

Photo: AP

President Joe Biden responded to the deaths of three US soldiers by launching airstrikes against Iran's militias and proxy forces. The targeted 85 sites included those linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' Quds Force, as well as militant groups funded by Iran. The strikes involved aircraft, including long-range B-1 bombers flown from the US.

Biden's retaliation aligned with his communicated plan, which involved inflicting consequences on Iran for a drone attack on a US base in Jordan by an Iran-supported militia. The goal was to showcase the full spectrum of American power while keeping options open for potential de-escalation.

The strategy emphasized a forceful response to make Iran and its proxies reconsider future attacks, all while avoiding a deeper entanglement in regional conflicts. Biden's statement, "Our response began today; it will continue at times and places of our choosing," conveyed the administration's determination.

The geopolitical backdrop includes Biden's cautious approach to prevent the US-Iran confrontation from jeopardizing negotiations between Israel and Hamas. The recent Israeli response to Hamas's attack on October 7 and US support for Israel contribute to tensions, prompting Iran's proxies to engage in repeated attacks.

The airstrikes targeted command-and-control facilities, supply depots for rockets, missiles, and drones, according to US Central Command. This action marked the most significant attack on the Quds Force since the 2020 assassination of General Qassem Soleimani.

Despite previous US strikes on Iranian proxies in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, the efficacy of such actions in deterring Iran remains uncertain. The situation raises questions about the potential for further escalations and whether future American casualties could lead to strikes on Iranian soil.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged the volatile state of the Middle East, emphasizing the urgency of addressing the ongoing tensions. His planned return to the region aimed to make progress on cease-fire and hostage deal negotiations between Israel and Hamas, potentially mitigating the impetus for attacks by Iranian proxies.

The four-day delay in launching the strikes drew criticism from Biden's Republican opponents, who deemed it insufficient to deter Iran's axis effectively. The Biden administration's reluctance for direct outreach or diplomacy with Iran was highlighted, with no communication reported since the soldiers' deaths on January 28.

Indirect talks between the US and Iran regarding the restoration of elements of a nuclear non-proliferation deal were halted following Hamas's attack on October 7. While the Biden administration had seen tentative progress, the current situation underscores the need for a diplomatic settlement to break the dangerous escalatory cycle.

Feb. 3, 2024 5:32 p.m. 1749

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