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Feb 2, 2024, 6:55am EST
Middle East
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Semafor Signals

US plans retaliatory strikes on Iranian targets in Syria and Iraq

Insights from Politico, The National, The New York Times, and CNN

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REUTERS/Julia Nikhinson
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The News

The U.S. has approved retaliatory strikes on Iranian targets following a deadly drone strike on American troops in Jordan, CBS News reported. The strikes will be carried out over a number of days in Syria and Iraq, and will target Iranian personnel and facilities.

“We will respond where we choose, when we choose and how we choose,” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday.

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U.S. intelligence suggests that an Iranian proxy organization was responsible for the drone strike. Tehran has widely funded local militias in Middle Eastern states as part of its “Axis of Resistance,” an attempt to offset Washington’s power in the region.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

The ‘Biden Doctrine’ for the Middle East may be revealed

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Source:  
The New York Times

The Biden administration is beginning to launch a new strategy for the Middle East, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote in a recent column. He dubbed the possible plans the “Biden Doctrine,” and wrote that he believed it would establish not only a tougher stance on Iran, but the establishment of an Palestinian state, and a security alliance with Saudi Arabia. If U.S President Joe Biden doesn’t establish such a strategy “the crisis in the region is going to metastasize in ways that will strengthen Iran, isolate Israel and leave America’s ability to influence events there for the better in tatters,” Friedman wrote.

Iran doesn’t have full control over its proxies

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Source:  
Politico

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force arms and offers intelligence to militia groups in Syria and Iraq, as well as Yemen’s Houthis — but Iran doesn’t have full control over the organizations, which operate with their own agendas, U.S. officials told Politico.

Officials do not believe that Iran is ordering the militias to carry out the attacks, an issue which is complicating communications between the two nations. Washington has been forced into a position where it must retaliate against strikes by Iran’s proxies, but has to be calculated in how it approaches them: Striking back too hard could inflame tensions, but a weak response could encourage the proxies further. “This is perhaps the most complicated period that I have seen in this region,” one official told Politico.

Tehran wants to avoid conflict with US

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Sources:  
CNN, The National

The so-called “Axis of Resistance” has struck 160 U.S. targets since the Israel-Hamas war began in October, CNN noted, and there are signs that Tehran is worried that escalations will put it in direct confrontation with the United States. Meanwhile, the Houthis’ targeting of vessels crossing the Red Sea has put pressure on the global economy, something Iran fears could disrupt the economic interests of China and Russia, key allies. “All indications are that Iran has no interest in getting into an escalatory cycle with the United States and Israel,” a source familiar with U.S. intelligence told CNN.

In an attempt to minimize the crisis, a top Iranian commander traveled to Iraq and urged a deescalation with the U.S. directly after the strike in Jordan which killed three American troops, The National reported. On Tuesday, Kataib Hezbollah announced that it was suspending military operations against U.S. forces — something sources that spoke with The National believe is a direct result of the trip.

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