US officials told NBC News that the US is planning to launch a weeks-long bombing campaign in the Middle East in retaliation for the drone attack in northeast Jordan that killed three American soldiers.
The officials said that the targets are expected to include Iranian targets outside of Iran, and the campaign will involve strikes and cyber operations. Other reports have said the US is considering targeting Iranians in Iraq and Syria or the Iranian navy.
While the potential targets are not inside Iran, direct attacks on the Iranian military could provoke a full-blown war between the US and Iran. The US is considering taking this course of action even though the Pentagon admitted it has no evidence Iran was directly involved in the drone attack in Jordan.
The Pentagon has said the Jordan attack had the “footprints” of Kataib Hezbollah, one of the main Shia militias in Iraq. The US says that Iran is responsible only because it arms Kataib Hezbollah and other Shia militias. US officials told The New York Times that while Iran arms and funds the Shia militias, there’s no evidence Tehran is “calling the shots.”
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday that US intelligence suggests the drone attack was carried out by the Islamic Resistance of Iraq, a shadowy umbrella group of Iraqi Shia militias.
The Islamic Resistance has taken credit for many of the 160 attacks that have been launched against US forces in Iraq and Syria since mid-October. The attacks started in response to US support for the Israeli slaughter in Gaza.
Kirby also hinted at the possibility of a drawn-out bombing campaign. “The first thing you see won’t be the last thing,” he said, adding that it won’t be a “one-off.”
Iran has vowed to respond to any US attacks on Iranians in the region. “The Islamic Republic would decisively respond to any attack on the county, its interests and nationals under any pretexts,” said Amir Saeid Iravani, Iran’s ambassador to the UN.