Direct retaliatory attack on Iran unlikely, says former US senior govt. official

A former US State Department official has suggested it is unlikely that the administration of President Joe Biden will directly strike Iran in retaliation for an attack on US troops in Jordan.

The Biden administration blames Iran-backed militia groups for Sunday's drone attack that killed three US soldiers in northeastern Jordan, near the Syrian border.

Nathan Sales, who served as former Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Acting Under Secretary at the US Department of State said in an interview with NHK on Wednesday that the response options for the White House "range from relatively modest to relatively aggressive."

He explained that a modest option would be retaliation against the groups responsible for the attack, while the most aggressive option would involve strikes on Iranian military assets inside Iran.

He said the White House has a real fear of escalation, and so "they have opted for the most modest and most minimal options among the array of options presented to them."

As of Wednesday, the US has not responded to Sunday's attack, and Sales described this as "an awfully long time."

He said "the clock is ticking," and warned that "every additional hour, every additional day and passage without a decisive American response sends a message" that the US is not prepared to defend itself, is afraid of escalation, and that message "invites further aggression from our enemies."

Sales also noted that US partners in the Gulf region are concerned they would not have US protection when Iran poses a more direct and immediate threat to them.

He stressed the need for the US to establish deterrence by military means, and to reinvigorate its diplomatic relationships with its Gulf partners.