A malfunctioning drone launched by an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq on October 26 may have played a crucial role in preventing a deeper involvement of the United States in the Middle East conflict, according to two anonymous U.S. officials familiar with the matter. The drone, penetrating U.S. air defences, crashed into the second floor of the barracks at the Erbil air base but failed to detonate. Fortunately, only one service member suffered a concussion. The incident is part of a series of over 40 drone and rocket attacks by Iranian-backed militias in response to U.S. support for Israel in the Gaza war.
David Schenker from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy expressed concern about growing risks. He noted, “The possibility of a major strike that draws America into a conflict is a very realistic concern.” While both Iran and the U.S. appear to avoid direct confrontation, the situation remains tense. President Joe Biden, struggling in polls, has sought to limit the U.S. role in the conflict primarily to providing military aid to Israel.
As tensions rose, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken flew to Iraq to urge Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani to crack down on the militias. Despite the government’s efforts, the militias have shown little willingness to cease their attacks. The situation is further complicated by the militias’ demands related to the Israeli siege and bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
Iran’s involvement and influence over the militias in Iraq pose challenges for Sudani. In a recent diplomatic move, he appealed directly to Iranian officials for help in persuading the militias to halt their attacks. However, Tehran indicated that the militias in Iraq make independent decisions, and Iran wouldn’t interfere.
Biden faces a delicate situation, receiving reports of hostilities in the region, including recent attacks off the coast of Yemen. While the U.S. has responded cautiously, deploying additional military assets to the region, critics argue that a more assertive approach is needed to deter further attacks.
The ongoing situation in the Middle East raises concerns about a potential escalation, prompting a reassessment of the U.S. military presence and strategy in the region.