Iran-backed Escalation Against U.S. Forces Persists Despite 3rd Round of U.S. Strikes

On November 12, the United States conducted its third round of airstrikes against Iran-linked targets in Syria since October 17, when Iran-backed groups began attacking U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war. In the twenty-three days since, there have been at least 52 attacks on U.S. forces, 56 American injuries, and one related casualty.

Faced with this escalation, the Biden administration had been relying on the same approach it used when dealing with similar attacks before October 7. Its two prior airstrikes (on October 26 and November 8) fit a pattern of infrequent and limited U.S. strikes coupled with rhetoric that was more conciliatory than bellicose. That approach failed to deter the Iranian regime. They already launched further attacks shortly after both the U.S. strike on November 8 and 12. While the latest U.S. strikes—targeting a training facility and safe house and killing several Iran-linked fighters—could signal the Biden administration’s willingness to target the personnel of those responsible for attacking U.S. forces, not only their infrastructure, four Iran-backed attacks against U.S. personnel shortly afterward indicates that these groups remain undeterred.

To deter the Iranian regime and its affiliated groups the United States will need to use consistent and strong military force that holds the Iranian regime directly accountable for the aggression it enables, alongside a surge of air defense assets to the Middle East that can better protect U.S. personnel and regional partners.

Click here to read the NatSec Brief.