The Pentagon revealed in a late Tuesday statement that in just the past week, US and coalition forces have been attacked at least ten times in Iraq, as well as three times in Syria, “via a mix of one-way attack drones and rockets,” according to Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, speaking to NBC.
But the real bombshell development, which Biden’s defence officials have apparently sat on for several days, is that some 24 US personnel were wounded in the attacks. According to the NBC statement:
Two dozen American military personnel were wounded last week in a series of drone attacks at American bases in Iraq and Syria, U.S. Central Command told NBC News on Tuesday.
The Pentagon confirmed the attacks last week, but the number of U.S. casualties has not been previously disclosed.
“Twenty American personnel sustained minor injuries on Oct. 18 when at least two one-way attack drones targeted al-Tanf military base in southern Syria, CENTCOM said,” the report continues.
It appears all the injuries were deemed minor, given Gen. Ryder described that all personnel returned to duty after being evaluated and threated, and there was no significant damage to base installations. However, in Iraq, “The U.S. shot down the one-way attack drones, but the debris from one destroyed a hanger that contained small aircraft, CENTCOM said.”
The defence official said that amid the attacks, there was a contractor who suffered cardiac arrest and died while sheltering in place, but the Pentagon isn’t necessarily considering the casualty to be the direct result of the assault.
The Pentagon may have concealed the information until now not only to properly account for all the instances and wounded personnel, but possibly to avoid escalating tensions by releasing the news. The Biden administration has vowed to respond ‘decisively’ if Americans in the region come under attack by Iran.
The militias operating in Iraq and Syria, believed to be behind the uptick in attacks, are widely viewed by Washington as being supported by Tehran.
It’s never a good sign when the United States says it “doesn’t want war” – at a moment a long known geopolitical flashpoint region stands on the brink. Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered a stern warning to Iran before a UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday, saying the US is prepared to respond “decisively” if Tehran or its proxies launch attacks on Americans in the Middle East.
Not only does the Pentagon still have thousands of troops and assets in Iraq, long under the domination of Shia paramilitary influence, but it has up to a thousand or so troops occupying broad oil and gas regions of eastern Syria. Missile and drone attacks on Pentagon outposts in Syria and Iraq have been rising in the last few days. But the real concern is on Israel’s northern border, where Hezbollah has launched multiple guided missile and anti-tank attacks on Israel border posts, including on Tuesday.
“The United States does not seek conflict with Iran,” Blinken told the UNSC “We do not want this war to widen. But if Iran or its proxies attack US personnel anywhere, make no mistake: We will defend our people; we will defend our security, swiftly and decisively.” Russia’s President Putin, who since 2015 has stationed major assets in neighbouring Syria, just the day prior blamed Washington for stoking “escalation” in the Middle East by moving two US carrier strike groups into the region.
There are building fears that Iran-backed Hezbollah will launch an all-out war on Israel if the IDF moves in full force into Gaza. The only thing that apparently has stalled these plans is the slow release (of up to four hostages) of Israeli and American captives by Hamas. Domestic political pressure is also building against the Netanyahu government, led by families who see hope in Qatari-mediated efforts that loved ones will be released. Hamas has demanded that fuel be transferred into Gaza via the Rafah border, but Israel has countered that all hostages must be freed first.
🚨 JUST IN: ISRAEL DOES NOT WANT WAR WITH HEZBOLLAH— Mario Nawfal (@MarioNawfal) October 24, 2023
“We don't want a confrontation in the north, but if Hezbollah drags us down – Lebanon will pay the price. Hezbollah is playing with fire” pic.twitter.com/Xm6jvu9p2Z
“We call on all member states to send a firm, united message to any state or non-state actor that is considering opening another front in this conflict against Israel or who may target Israel’s partners, including the United States: don’t. Don’t throw fuel on the fire,” Blinken said. But the historical pattern has been that when the US moves such huge naval power into the Mediterranean and Mideast waters, it plans to do something with it.
Jordan (and others) have at the same time warned the UN assembly that there’s “real danger” of a bigger war that draws in superpowers like Russia, or even potentially China, which also has interests and military assets in the region.
“We’re all doing everything we can to stop it. There’s the threat of this expanding into the West Bank, into Lebanon, and into other fronts. None of us want that; we’re all working against that,” Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told the UNSC.