US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan hinted that there will be more steps in the American response to the Jordan drone attack which killed three soldiers last week
America’s National Security adviser has refused to rule out strikes inside Iran as tensions continue to rise in the Middle East.
President Joe Biden authorised military action on Friday after three US troops were killed following a devastating drone strike in Jordan. The move targeted Iranian proxies in Iraq and Syria following the tragic death of the soldiers last week after the US accused Iran of being behind the attack and on February 2.
Iran said the accusations were “baseless” before Islamic Resistance in Iraq, the Iran-backed militia, claimed responsibility for the killings hours later. Jake Sullivan was today asked by NBC’s Kristen Welker about whether the nation has ruled out strikes inside Iran.
“Well, sitting here today on a national news program, I’m not going to get into what we’ve ruled in and ruled out from the point of view of military action – What I will say is that the president is determined to respond forcefully to attacks on our people. The President also is not looking for a wider war in the Middle East,” he said.
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“But is it off the table? Are strikes inside Iran off the table?” the presenter pressed. He responded: “Again, Kristen, sitting here on television, it would not be wise for me to talk about what we’re ruling in and ruling out,” the White House national security adviser replied.
Ms Welker asked him for clarity one more time, probing “So you’re not ruling it out?” He was unmoved by the question, telling her, “I’ll just say the same thing one more time. I’m not going to get into what’s on the table and off the table when it comes to the American response.”
Earlier, speaking to the media about the war in Gaza and the humanitarian crisis, Mr Sullivan confirmed US Secretary of State Blinken is on his way to the war-torn region on a trip that will include stops in Israel, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the West Bank later this week.
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He says that a hostage deal with Hamas that gets a pause in the hostilities in Gaza is in the national security interest of the United States. “We are going to press for it relentlessly,” Sullivan confirmed. “So this is a paramount priority for us.” Speaking about the actions of Iran-backed militias, he added America “is prepared to deal with anything that any group comes” at them with.
In a press briefing late last week, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said: “We believe [the Jordan attack] was done by Iranian proxy groups. We will take all necessary actions to protect our troops and defend the US, our interests and our people.” He did not, however, specify how and when the US military would respond.
When asked, Austin said the military isn’t considering withdrawing troops from any location in the Middle East at the moment due to the recent developments, although there are ongoing discussions about “our footprint going forward.” Biden had previously vowed that the US “will respond” and was preparing for retaliatory strikes in the wake of the Sunday drone attack that also injured at least 40 troops at Tower 22, a secretive base in northeastern Jordan that’s been crucial to the American presence in neighbouring Syria.