US responsibility in the Middle East

Alan Cai

February 2, 2024

President Biden honored the three US military personnel who lost their lives on Sunday from a drone attack in Jordan. Iranian-backed militia in Iraq and Syria were identified as the perpetrators of the attack, located near the Iraqi border.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and its elite branch, the Quds Force, have long been organizers and financial backers of terrorist organizations designated as such by the US State Department. They back many prominent organizations in the Middle East including Hezbollah. Both are designated by the Department of State as Foreign Terrorist Organizations themselves.

Following the drone attack, which killed three and wounded over forty, President Biden vowed that consequences will be dished out to the offenders. Today, over 85 targets were hit as part of a large-scale aerial retaliatory strike against sites identified as areas housing intelligence, command centers, and other key logistical hubs according to the Associated Press. United States National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby noted in a press briefing that measures were taken to minimize civilian casualties.

The targets in Syria and Iraq likely did minimal damage to the organizations as a whole due to many days of advance warning provided by the administration. Nevertheless, the retaliation sent a strong signal that the United States was willing and able to launch a swift response to any threat provided by local groups.

In the wake of recent turmoil in the Middle East, the United States should strongly reconsider the utility of an extended military presence there. America began to procure a major military presence in the region following the September 11th attack after which American troops were deployed in Afghanistan and after the initiation of the Iraq War during which Iraq led by Saddam Hussein was invaded on the pretense of harboring weapons of mass destruction, an accusation later revealed to be inaccurate.

Before the turn of the twentieth century, America has had notable excursions in the Middle East including during Operation Desert Storm(Gulf War) but did not maintain a significant lasting military presence.

American military projection into the Middle East, specifically near Iraq and Syria, is an outdated practice which may require some scaling down. Despite stationing over 3000 active duty personnel and other service members in Iraq and Syria combined, we do not retain any key national security interest in the region save the possibility of Iranian nuclear weapons. Regardless, Americans stationed in Iraq and Syria may serve as a futile deterrent to any Iranian weapons-of-mass-destruction production.

With the continued prolonging of the Western Middle East conflict, it is more important than ever to return Americans from their sitting duck position and ensure that no further conflicts broil.

In the event that additional deterrence is required, the United States should prioritize utilizing its naval power rather than on-the-ground bases to guarantee that local organizations are not provoked and Americans are not harmed.