Tuesday Briefing: U.S. Weighs a Response to the Drone Strike

President Biden must decide how far he is willing to go after a drone strike killed three U.S. soldiers at a base in Jordan on Sunday. He vowed to respond to the attack, which he blamed on militant groups backed by Iran, but retaliation could risk a wider war.

The hostile drone slipped through because a U.S. drone was returning at the same time. That caused confusion over whether the hostile drone was friendly and delayed the activation of air defenses, U.S. officials said.

Until now, Biden had carefully calibrated his responses to the more than 150 attacks by Iranian-backed militias on U.S. forces in the region since Oct. 7. But this is the first attack in which American troops have died, and U.S. officials say a different level of response is warranted.

His options are either unsatisfying, or very risky.

Biden could order strikes on the proxy forces, a major escalation of the attacks it has already conducted in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. But those strikes haven’t deterred the Iran-backed militias. He could also go after Iranian suppliers of drones and missiles, perhaps even inside the country’s territory. But that could open another front in the war.

Yesterday, Iran tried to distance itself from the attack when a foreign ministry spokesman said that the militias “do not take orders” from Iran.

Israel-Gaza: More than a dozen countries have suspended some funding to UNRWA, the U.N. aid agency for the Palestinians, since Israel accused its employees of participating in the Oct. 7 attacks. Details have emerged about the employees. One is said to have kidnapped a woman; another allegedly took part in a massacre at a kibbutz.

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