Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that the Middle East is at its most dangerous "since at least 1973" and "arguably" even before the Arab-Israeli War.
Blinken made the comments at a news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, reacting to the drone stroke that killed three American soldiers the day before. The Pentagon put the blame on proxy groups backed and supported by Iran, in this case the Kata'ib Hezbollah.
U.S. troops and bases have been attacked more than 150 times since Hamas instigated war with Israel in Gaza on Oct. 7, but Sunday's attack was the first to strike dead American military members. Republican lawmakers have ratcheted up pressure on the Biden administration to strike hard at Iran, the terrorist nation believed to behind all the previous attacks in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan.
However, Blinken talked of a U.S. response that "could be multileveled, come in stages, and be sustained over time."
"We want to prevent this conflict from spreading, so we are intent on doing both, that is standing up for our people when they're attacked, while at the same time working every single day to prevent the conflict from growing and spreading," Blinken said Monday.
This is the problem, assert Republicans — Biden doesn't understand deterrence and Iran sees weakness.
"The appropriate action is what we should have done earlier, which is go after Iran," Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., told Newsmax on Monday. "We know that they are the ones who are funding the proxies."
However, the Pentagon said Monday the U.S. doesn't want a war with Iran just as Iran doesn't want war with the U.S.
"We don't seek war, but we will take action, and respond to attacks on our forces," a Pentagon spokesperson said.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the U.S. would take "all necessary actions."
"The president and I will not tolerate attacks on U.S. forces and we will take all necessary actions to defend the U.S. and our troops," Austin said at the outset of a meeting with Stoltenberg.
That was not enough to appease Republicans.
"He left our troops as sitting ducks," Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said. "The only answer to these attacks must be devastating military retaliation against Iran's terrorist forces, both in Iran and across the Middle East."
Former President and Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump said the fatalities were a direct "consequence of Joe Biden's weakness and surrender."
In addition to the three fatalities, more than 40 U.S. service members were injured, a number that's expected to grow, the Pentagon said.
"We are not looking for war with Iran, we are not seeking a conflict with the regime in the military way," National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said. "We're not looking to escalate here. This attack over the weekend was escalatory, make no mistake about it — and it requires a response, make no mistake about that. I will not get ahead of the president's decision-making."
Republicans, already angry, will be waiting.
"This administration has caused this," Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., said told Newsmax on Monday. "They have no way to get out of it. It's going to get worse."
Mark Swanson ✉
Mark Swanson, a Newsmax writer and editor, has nearly three decades of experience covering news, culture and politics.
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