Airstrikes and attacks on American forces spark debate

Iranian proxy militias launched suicide drone strikes on a U.S.-Jordanian military base in northern Jordan near the country’s borders with Iraq and Syria. These strikes killed three American servicemembers and wounded 47 others. Although Iran initially denied any role in the attack, Department of Defense officials concluded one week later that Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose group of pro-Iran militias, was responsible for the strikes.

In response, the Biden administration pledged to “hold all those responsible to account at a time and place of our choosing.” The White House response came almost a week after the initial attacks. In a barrage of airstrikes across Iraq and Syria on February 2, U.S. forces hit 85 targets with 125 guided munitions. American military officials estimate that the strikes killed 29 Iranian-backed militia members.

According to several American policymakers, Iran consistently denies responsibility for the actions of the armed groups it trains, houses, equips, and finances. Instead, Iran holds that the militia groups act entirely of their own accord. Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), one of the larger Iran-sponsored radical groups operating in Iraq and Syria, was hit particularly hard by the U.S. airstrikes. KH leadership has close links with Iran’s Quds Force, an official branch of the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Reactions to the strikes have been varied. Hamas, itself a direct proxy of Iran, stated that unless the ongoing war in Gaza ends, the U.S. will find itself at odds with “the entire Muslim nation.” Meanwhile, American allies Bahrain and Egypt condemned the attack and called for peace, while the British and Israeli governments offered condolences for the families of the fallen American service members.

On campus, student responses have been equally diverse. When asked about the proportionality of the U.S. response to the attacks, freshman Ashwin Raghuraman told the Rover, “While, as of now, our level of response has been justified, it is important to look with a cautious eye at what the Biden administration chooses to do in the future,” adding that civilian casualties must be avoided, especially in the conflict in Gaza.

Raghuraman also addressed Iran’s apparent denials of its connection to the groups responsible for January’s violence, stating, “Looking beyond the smokescreen of Iran’s systematic attempts to achieve its geopolitical goals while avoiding accountability, Iran’s track record of dismissing the dignity of human life is the one constant we can rely on.”

Freshman Mark Moloney felt strongly about the issue. He stated, “I feel that America is justified in a direct counter attack as a show of force against Iranian aggression in the Middle East.” Moloney’s sentiments reflect the consensus of the U.S. foreign policy establishment, as the American government’s retaliatory strikes proves.

2,300 miles to the south, the Yemen-based Houthis, another Iran-backed terrorist group, have been targeting international shipping with boarding parties and ballistic missiles. They claim that these actions are taken in solidarity with Hamas amidst their ongoing war with Israel in the Gaza Strip. The Houthis have been fighting a civil war in Yemen against that country’s government since 2014, creating what the United Nations has referred to as “the world’s largest humanitarian crises.” Current estimates suggest that more than 21 million people require humanitarian aid in Yemen due to the hostilities.

In response to Houthi attacks on international commerce, the U.S. Navy initiated Operation Prosperity Guardian, an international coalition of more than twenty nations’ naval forces operating in the Red Sea, near the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait. The passage serves as a pivotal choke point between the Red Sea and Indian Ocean where, as of time of publication, there have been ten attacks on international cargo ships and allied naval assets.

After the expiration of a January 3 ultimatum to the Houthis that demanded a cessation of hostilities, American and British forces initiated a campaign of more than 150 missile strikes against Houthi assets in Yemen. 22 fighter aircraft flying from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower as well as fighter jets flying from U.S. bases in the area participated in the attack. It is estimated that the Houthis suffered between 100 and 200 casualties, with substantial damage being done to their anti-ship missile capabilities.

Sophomore Ryan Kenney told the Rover, “If they attack sovereign U.S. ships and crewmen, then we as a country have the absolute right to obliterate them.” He added, “A threat to liberty anywhere is a threat to liberty around the globe.” 

Iran, just as it had previously denied affiliation with militia groups in Iraq and Syria, also denied involvement with the Houthis, although it supports their ideology. The Department of Defense, however, alleges that Iranian intelligence and armaments are a critical part of the Houthis’ campaign to disrupt  international maritime commerce.

Raghuraman also felt that the Houthi threat merited a swift U.S. response. He told the Rover, “If civilians and commercial interests are suffering as a result of a terrorist group, you take action to alleviate that suffering.”

The events in Jordan and the Red Sea serve as a reminder of how the conflict in Israel and Palestine is interwoven with larger global political tensions. The death of American service members in the Middle East has intensified heated discussions over the United States’ responsibilities abroad and is poised to remain in the spotlight during the coming election cycle.

Sam Marchand is a freshman studying political science and finance from Beaumont, TX. He sorely misses Dr. Pepper, which is unavailable in the dining halls, and squanders much of his spare time by aimlessly reading the Current Events section of Wikipedia. He can be reached at

Photo Credit: USAF via Wikimedia commons

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