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Biden warns US will respond to Iranian actions, including drone attacks

‘We will continue to respond,’ says US president; American officials blamed Tehran for UAV assault on the al-Tanf base earlier this month

President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference at the conclusion of the G20 leaders summit, October 31, 2021, in Rome. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference at the conclusion of the G20 leaders summit, October 31, 2021, in Rome. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

US President Joe Biden said Sunday that the United States will respond to actions Iran has taken against Washington’s interests, including recent drone strikes.

“With regards to the issue of how we’re going to respond to their actions against interest of the US, whether they are drone strikes or anything else, is we’re going to respond,” Biden said in a press conference following the G20 summit in Rome.

“We will continue to respond,” he added.

Biden’s statement comes after American officials blamed Iran for a drone attack on a remote US outpost in Syria. Officials said Monday that the US believes Iran resourced and encouraged the attack, but that the drones were not launched from Iran.

No deaths or injuries were reported as a result of the attack on October 20.

In retaliation, the US Treasury Department on Friday announced new penalties against two senior members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and two affiliated companies for supplying lethal drones and related material to insurgent groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and Ethiopia.

US and coalition troops are based at al-Tanf to train Syrian forces on patrols to counter Islamic State jihadists. The base is also located on a road serving as a vital link for Iranian-backed forces from Tehran all the way to southern Lebanon and Israel.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby declined to provide details when asked about the report during a news conference Monday. He called it a “complex, coordinated and deliberate attack” and said the US has seen similar ones before from Shia militia groups that are backed by Iran. But he would not go into specifics and said he had no update on the munitions used in the attack.

Kirby also declined to say whether troops were warned ahead of time or whether the US intends to make a military response.

“The protection and security of our troops overseas remains a paramount concern for the secretary,” Kirby said, referring to US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, “and that if there is to be a response, it will be at a time and a place and a manner of our choosing, and we certainly won’t get ahead of those kinds of decisions.”

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon, in Washington, February 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Pro-Iran media outlets have been saying that the attack on Tanf was carried out by “Syria’s allies” — an apparent reference to Iran-backed groups — in retaliation for an attack days earlier near the historic Syrian town of Palmyra. Israel has been blamed for the attack. US officials say America was not involved.

The al-Tanf attack came in a period of rising tensions with Iran. The Biden administration this week said international diplomatic efforts to get Iran back into negotiations to return to a 2015 nuclear deal were at a “critical place,” and that patience is wearing thin. But Washington is also eager to bring Iran back to the negotiating table.

The US military outpost al-Tanf in southern Syria, October 22, 2018. (AP/Lolita Baldor)

The last major Iranian attack on US forces was in January 2020, when Tehran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles on al-Asad air base in Iraq. US and coalition troops were warned of the incoming missiles and were able to take cover, but more than 100 US service members received traumatic brain injuries as a result of the blasts.

That attack was in response to the US drone strike earlier that month near the Baghdad airport that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Two months after the al-Asad assault, US fighter jets struck five sites in retaliation, targeting Iranian-backed Shiite militia members believed responsible for the January rocket attack.

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