US President Joe Biden
US President Joe BidenGripas Yuri/ABACA via Reuters Connect

The US’ response to the drone attack in Jordan that killed and wounded US service members on Sunday is likely to be more powerful than previous American retaliatory strikes in Iraq and Syria, officials told CNN on Monday, though the Pentagon and White House are being careful not to telegraph the administration’s plans.

President Joe Biden is under increasing pressure to respond in a way that stops these attacks for good, according to the report, which noted that Iran-backed militants have targeted US military facilities in Iraq and Syria over 160 times since October.

The biggest challenge now for the Biden administration is how to respond to Sunday’s drone strike – the deadliest attack on US forces in the region since the bombing at Abbey Gate killed 13 US service members in the closing days of the Afghanistan withdrawal – without sparking a regional war.

The US has in recent months carried out several strikes targeting Iranian proxies’ weapons depots in Iraq and Syria. To date, none of those strikes have deterred the militants, whose 165 attacks have injured over 120 US service members across the region since October, noted CNN.

The Biden administration could decide to again strike the militant groups in Iraq, Syria or both countries, and could also target the leadership of the regional militias. In at least one case in early January, the US targeted a senior member of Harakat al-Nujaba, an Iranian proxy that has attacked US forces. An offensive cyberattack is another option, officials noted.

A US official said the US is being careful not to be too specific about the origin of the drone or which militants launched it, in order to preserve some element of surprise when the US responds. US officials have said only that the Iranian proxy group Kataib Hezbollah appears to have supported the strike.

“We’re not taking anything off the table,” a US defense official told CNN.