February 2, 2024 | Flash Brief

Pentagon: Deadly Attack on U.S. Soldiers Facilitated by Iran

February 2, 2024 | Flash Brief

Pentagon: Deadly Attack on U.S. Soldiers Facilitated by Iran

Latest Developments

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on February 1 that the Pentagon believes that Iranian-sponsored and -funded proxy groups conducted the recent attack in Jordan that took the lives of three U.S. Army Reserve soldiers. On January 28, Iran-backed Shiite militias in Iraq used a drone to attack living quarters at Tower 22 — a U.S. military outpost located near Jordan’s border with Syria and Iraq.

“And how much Iran knew or didn’t know … we don’t know, but it really doesn’t matter because Iran sponsors these groups, it funds these groups, and in some cases … it trains these groups on advanced conventional weapons,” Austin said during a press briefing. “I think without that facilitation, these … kinds of things don’t happen.”

U.S. forces are stationed at the post as part of the counter-ISIS mission known as Operation Inherent Resolve. The attack killed Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46, Spc. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, and Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23, and injured 40 more servicemembers. Echoing President Joe Biden’s January 29 warning to the perpetrators of the attack, Austin said, “we will respond when we choose, where we choose, and how we choose.” The United States did not respond to the attack until February 2.

Expert Analysis

“In its response to the attack that killed U.S. soldiers, the Biden administration is looking for a Goldilocks approach — not too soft and not too hard. Too soft and America’s enemies will continue to believe they can attack our troops with few consequences. Too hard and the president worries that he could have a larger regional war on his hands — something he certainly doesn’t want in this election year. The greatest danger with this administration is too weak of a response.” — Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power

“These are accurate and much-needed comments from the secretary, especially given recent intelligence community leaks implying limited Iranian control over proxies. Hopefully, the secretary can gain permission to get the necessary offensive campaign underway this weekend, before every IRGC officer has packed up shop and fled Iraq and Syria.” — RADM (Ret.) Mark Montgomery, FDD Senior Fellow and Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Cyber and Technology

“For years, Iran has transferred drones to its proxies, as well as the knowledge and skills to indigenously produce drones. It’s sadly no surprise that one finally took the lives of U.S. servicemembers.” — Ryan Brobst, FDD Senior Research Analyst

U.S. Rarely Responds to Attacks

Iran-backed Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria have blamed America’s support of Israel in its war against Hamas as the reason they escalated their attacks against U.S. forces in the region. But as Austin said on February 1, Iranian proxy groups have been attacking U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria “well before October 7.”

Since mid-October, Iranian proxies have attacked U.S. troops in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan more than 165 times, including three times after January 28. Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen have also repeatedly attacked shipping in the Red Sea.

On January 20, Iranian-backed militants launched ballistic missiles and rockets at al-Asad Airbase in Iraq, wounding multiple servicemembers. In response, U.S. forces carried out airstrikes on the Iranian proxy group Kataib Hezbollah on January 24. The limited strikes were apparently insufficient to deter the deadly strike in Jordan, which resulted in the first U.S. deaths since the proxy groups’ escalation began.

Expert Analysis

How to hold Iran accountable for killing US troops,” by RADM (Ret.) Mark Montgomery

Iran-Backed Drone Attack Kills Three U.S. Servicemembers in Jordan,” FDD Flash Brief

The drone wars of Iran’s militias are becoming more deadly,” by Seth J. Frantzman


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Military and Political Power U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy