President Joe Biden on Tuesday faced mounting pressure to respond forcefully to Sunday’s drone attack by Iranian-backed militants that killed three U.S. service members and wounded at least 40 others, without deepening the conflict in the Middle East.
“We are not seeking war with Iran,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said at the White House press briefing on Monday.
Kirby continued: “We are not seeking a conflict with the regime in a military manner.” He added, “We are not looking for escalation here. This attack that occurred over the weekend was an escalation, make no mistake about it. It requires a response.”
The president pledged on Sunday that the United States would respond, and on Monday he met with members of his national security team in the White House Situation Room to discuss the latest developments on the attack in Jordan near the borders with Syria and Iraq, according to the White House.
Those attending the meeting included National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, and Chief of Staff Jeff Zients.
Biden now faces a difficult decision about how best to respond to the attack that claimed the life of the first American soldier since the beginning of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, without igniting a broader conflict in the region, something the administration is trying hard to ignite. Avoid for several months.
The White House has neither confirmed nor denied whether direct strikes against Iran are on the table, but a senior US official told ABC News that Biden has deep doubts about retaliatory strikes on Iran itself.
“There’s no easy answer here,” Kirby told reporters.
He added: “That’s why the president is meeting with his national security team, and considering his options. He will do so, as he has done in the past, in a very careful and thoughtful way, so that our national security – our best interests – respond.” “Saved.”
At a press conference on Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested that the US response “could be multi-layered, come in phases, and continue over time.”
Before Sunday’s deadly attack, there had been at least 164 attacks on US forces in the region since mid-October.
The United States has launched repeated retaliatory strikes — nine in Yemen since January 11, four in Iraq and three in Syria since mid-October — although the president noted that they have done little to deter future attacks.
Many Republicans have called on the administration to take stronger action against Iran, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“The entire world is now watching for signs that the President is finally willing to exercise American power to force Iran to change its behavior. Our enemies have become emboldened. And they will continue to do so until the United States imposes serious and crippling costs — and not just on the front lines.” He said in a statement: “On the line of terrorist agents, but on their Iranian sponsors who wear American blood as a badge of honor.”
What makes matters more complicated is the conflict between Israel and Hamas, and the ongoing hostage negotiations that the United States and other countries are facilitating.
Kirby said on Monday that the talks were moving in a good direction, and that the White House saw “no reason” why any US response to these attacks would affect the negotiations. However, he acknowledged the possibility.
“We are not arrogant. We realize that there is a lot of hard work ahead of us. And that work ahead of us, certainly diplomatically, may be affected by – by events that have occurred elsewhere in the region. Not only – not only what happened in Jordan.” “And what might come as a result of that, but there’s no reason why that shouldn’t be the case. That’s why we’re going to stay on this mission,” Kirby said.
The growing conflict could also have major impacts on Biden’s reelection efforts. He already faced political pressure during his election campaign from pro-Palestinian protests at his ceasefire events.
At a recent event in Virginia, Biden faced more than a dozen interruptions from crowds calling for an end to the conflict.
When asked if politics would play a role in the president’s response, Kirby insisted they would not.
“He does not look at political calculations, ballots, or the electoral calendar while working to protect our forces on shore and our ships at sea – and any suggestion to the contrary is an attack,” he said.
This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com