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Since the current war between Israel and Hamas began in early October, there have been warnings of the conflict spiraling and igniting proxy wars in the Middle East.

Sporadic fighting on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon and Houthi raids in the Red Sea ratcheted up the tension, for sure. But until Sunday, the U.S. administration had avoided the need to address a deadly attack on any of its personnel in the region.

But then a drone attack in Jordan killed three American troops and injured dozens more, forcing President Joe Biden’s hand. He immediately blamed Iran-backed militias; Tehran denied having any involvement. The relationship between Iran and the group that claimed responsibility is not straightforward, as Sara Harmouch, an expert on asymmetric warfare and militant groups in the Middle East at American University, explains. And that complicates the calculus in front of Biden now as he prepares a retaliatory response. How he acts, Harmouch adds, risks provoking an escalation and might even “reshape the Middle East’s geopolitical landscape and influence the dynamics of proxy warfare in the region.”

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Matt Williams

Senior International Editor

Jordanian and U.S. tanks take part in joint maneuvers in September 2022. Khalil Mazraawi/AFP

Drone attack on American troops risks widening Middle East conflict – and drawing in Iran-US tensions

Sara Harmouch, American University

Three American troops were killed and dozens more injured in an attack on a base in Jordan. How the Biden administration responds could determine if conflict in the Middle East widens.

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