‘Always mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy,’ said Sun Tzu. The Biden administration takes the opposite approach. America’s Commander-in-Chief spent much of the last week warning America’s antagonists in the Middle East that the US would respond to the killing of three of its troops in Jordan last weekend. And last night the retaliation finally began. US forces used some 125 bombs on seven sites in Syria and Iraq, targets that the Pentagon believes are tied to attacks on Americans.
Iran was not hit, importantly, even though the White House has directly blamed the Iranian regime for the many attacks against western assets since the war in Gaza began in October. The widespread fear is that America is getting sucked into a regional conflict with a heavily armed state — a conflict that could, given Iran’s close relationship with Russia and China, draw the west into a major global clash.
Biden, his Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his National Security Council seem well aware of this danger, which is why last night’s strikes were clearly calibrated to be retaliatory and not escalatory. The Iranian regime will struggle to claim it has been attacked, since only its covert operations have been targeted. But the line between retaliation and escalation is a difficult one to draw and Team Biden appears to be suggesting their response is not over.
America is therefore now closer to open conflict with Iran than at any stage since the assassination of Qasem Soleimani in 2020. Both Washington and Tehran are now issuing the same message: we don’t want war, but we are prepared to fight it.
Biden’s actions must inevitably be seen through the lens of his re-election effort. Polls suggest that national security is a growing concern for voters, since 9/11, and that is a win for the seemingly inevitable Republican nominee. Donald Trump has made Biden’s inability to contain Iran and Russia a theme of this campaign and says now that humanity is on ‘the brink of world war three’. Biden