Attack on US base should prompt Washington to rethink its Mideast strategy

(Photo: Twitter/X)

Osama Al Sharif

Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.

Sunday’s lethal drone attack on US forces stationed at a military post in northeastern Jordan was the most severe challenge to America’s military presence in the region since October 7, when Hamas attacked southern Israel. US forces in Syria and Iraq have been targeted at least 150 times since then by pro-Iranian militias based in Iraq. But three US soldiers were killed in the Jordan attack and as many as 30 injured. The drone is believed to have been launched from Iraq. The so-called Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella of several Shiite groups attached to the Popular Mobilization Units, claimed responsibility.اضافة اعلان

The target location is believed to be a vital center of military communications and surveillance that covers Syria, Iraq and Jordan. Pro-Iranian groups have said their post-October 7 operations are in response to Israel’s war on Gaza. The same groups claim they have attacked targets in Israel itself, including Eilat in southern Israel.

At the same time, the Houthis in Yemen have managed to disrupt commercial maritime activity in the Red Sea by attacking US, British and Israeli ships and any vessels heading to Israeli ports. They have also launched many long-range missiles against southern Israel. They, too, claim they are supporting the people of Gaza against the Israeli onslaught. The US and Britain have carried out several aerial attacks against Houthi positions in response.

The White House finds itself in an awkward position, needing to show deterrence while avoiding an open war

Sunday’s attack took the US by surprise. The fact that the strike took place on Jordanian territory is also essential. President Joe Biden and the Pentagon promised to retaliate, but Republican lawmakers and the right-wing media want him to strike Iran, which has denied any connection to the incident. Tehran said that resistance groups are the ones that have decided to respond to the US military presence in the region, not itself. The White House finds itself in an awkward position, needing to show deterrence while avoiding an open war with Iran and its proxies.

The US has retaliated in the past few weeks with strikes against forces at the Al-Asad and Irbil airbases in Iraq. The most serious was last month’s strike on a Kata’ib Hezbollah base in Baghdad, which killed at least one senior official and wounded 18, including civilians. The Iraqi government protested the US strike, calling it an “unacceptable attack on Iraqi sovereignty” that would “harm bilateral relations.” Since then, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani has requested that negotiations should begin to end the US military presence in Iraq.

Meanwhile, US media reports have stated that Washington is also considering pulling out of northeastern Syria.

The main question is how the US will retaliate. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said on Monday that America is not looking to go to war with Iran, nor does it want to expand the regional conflict.

Sunday’s attack raises many challenges for the US. First, its military has been in this region for decades, toppling Saddam Hussein and triggering a sectarian war in Iraq, while incriminating itself in war crimes. After destroying Iraq, it allowed Iran to play a crucial role in the country’s politics, resulting in what we have today: multiple nonstate actors that are supported by Iran and are ideologically against the US presence, not only in Iraq but the region.

Second, the US has launched wars or been involved in them from Afghanistan to Libya and from Yemen to Somalia and Syria, with one clear outcome: the creation of failed states. This has enabled proxy groups and nonstate actors and led to the death or displacement of millions of innocent civilians. Other than triggering wars, the US has had no clear regional strategic objective. It has alienated its traditional allies and created anti-US sentiments across the region.

Attack on US base should prompt Washington to rethink its Mideast strategy

Third, in this latest Israeli aggression on Gaza, the US has sided, as usual, with the aggressor without any consideration of how the people of the region will feel. They may not like Iran and its proxies, but opposition to Israel’s bloodbath in Gaza has created so much grassroots support for the so-called resistance front that it also puts pressure on America’s allies in the region, which have to answer to their citizens.

Still, the Middle East is changing and leaders are learning the lessons of the past. One immediate outcome of this is that leaders now affirm there will not be any regional stability so long as the Palestinian cause remains unresolved. This is the position of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Jordan and other Arab and regional players. This is a message that Washington has refused to understand. The neocons in the US Congress and right-wing media, who believe the US can club together an anti-Iran coalition, triggering another costly war in the region, are not only delusional but simply wrong. The leaders in the area have learned their lessons. “Never again” also means never repeating the mistakes of the past.

The Gaza war has been an eye-opener for millions of people around the world. The region’s leaders have also absorbed the lessons. The US Middle East policy has delivered chaos and radicalism since the 1990s. America’s blind bias in favor of Israel has turned it into an accessory to war crimes and now an allegation of enabling genocide.

The US must stop viewing the region from an Israeli perspective if it wants to build genuine and lasting alliances with countries in this part of the world. Today’s leaders are aware of their geopolitical options, opening up to Russia and China while also keeping links to the US. Suppose the US has an agenda for the region. In that case, it must consider what the vast majority of the people of this region want. A resolution to the Palestinian question in a just and viable way would be a significant step in the right direction.

A direct attack on Iran should not be on the cards for the US. An all-out regional war is something that helps Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s objective of dragging everyone into a conflict that serves no one’s interests but his. Instead, the US should examine its national interests in a fast-changing region, in which leaders opt to resolve their differences through diplomacy.

America’s 30-year military engagement in the region has been toxic and disruptive. No one here wants to see another war flaring up. Instead, leaders want a durable and just resolution to the core of regional instability; something the Palestinians will accept so that other non-state actors stop using them as an excuse to destabilize the region. Washington needs to rethink its Middle East strategy after Sunday’s attack.

Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.

Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Jordan News' point of view.

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