Iran is seeking to distance itself from a drone attack in Jordan over the weekend which killed three American soldiers and injured dozens more, with a Tehran foreign ministry spokesperson on Monday dismissing any suggestions of involvement as “baseless.”
President Joe Biden on Sunday unequivocally blamed the attack on “radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq.” He later promised that the U.S. “shall respond” to the incident which marked the first lethal strike on American forces in the Middle East since the war between Israel and Hamas erupted in October.
The U.K. similarly implicated Tehran in the attack. “We strongly condemn attacks by Iran-aligned militia groups against US forces,” British Foreign Minister David Cameron wrote on X on Sunday. “We continue to urge Iran to de-escalate in the region.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Spokesperson Nasser Kanaani on Monday said such suggestions were “baseless.” “As we have clearly stated before, the resistance groups in the region are responding the war crimes and genocide of the child-killing Zionist regime,” Kanaani was quoted as saying by Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
He added that the groups “do not take orders from the Islamic Republic of Iran” and instead “act based on their own principles and priorities as well as the interests of their country and people.” Kanaani’s comments followed a separate statement from Iran’s mission to the United Nations that Iran “had nothing to do with the attack on the U.S. base,” according to IRNA.
The “Axis of Resistance,” a group of Iran-backed militias, has claimed responsibility for the attack as part of its campaign to force American troops out of Syria and Iraq. The drone strike hit a logistics outpost called Tower 22 in northeast Jordan close to where the borders of Jordan, Syria, and Iraq meet. It marked a major escalation in the region which has seen scores of attacks on U.S. forces across several countries.
The U.S. military blamed Iran-aligned groups for an attack on an air base in western Iraq on Jan. 20 which left at least four American service members injured. Yemen’s Houthi rebels—another group supported by Iran—have also targeted U.S.-owned ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden in response to Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza. Two U.S. Navy SEALs are presumed dead after being lost at sea off the coast of Somalia during an operation to seize Iran-made weapons heading to the Houthis on Jan. 11.
On Monday, the Houthis claimed to have launched a missile at the USS Lewis B. Puller, an American warship that serves as a floating landing base, which had been involved in the ill-fated Jan. 11 operation in which the SEALs were lost. A U.S. defense official told the Associated Press that no attack on the Puller had been reported.
Houthi military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree in a statement said such attacks will continue “until the aggression is stopped, and the siege is lifted on the people of Palestine in the Gaza Strip.”
Tensions throughout the Middle East have been increasing since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people, according to Israeli figures. Israel has responded with a campaign to destroy Hamas which, according to Palestinian officials, has led to the deaths of over 26,000 people in Gaza and the displacement of millions of others.
The Daily Beast