The radical rethink taking place in the Biden administration’s approach to the Middle East could result in a profound reset in Washington’s strategy for dealing with the many challenges the region faces.
It was only a few weeks ago that, as part of US President Joe Biden’s to scale down America’s presence, US officials were actively engaged in negotiations with the Iraqi authorities to agree a time frame for the withdrawal of the remaining American forces still based in the country.
Indeed, Washington may still be obliged to rethink its military dispositions in Iraq after its drone strike in Baghdad that killed members of the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia — including a top commander — said to be responsible for carrying out recent attacks against US forces.
The attack on Wednesday night prompted a furious response from the Iraqi government, which openly criticised the US for straining relations between the two countries, describing the attack as a “clear-cut assassination” that amounted to a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.
“This path pushes the Iraqi government, more than ever before, to end the mission of this coalition, which has become a factor of instability,” read a statement issued by a senior Iraqi official.
Irrespective of whether US forces remain in Iraq, though, it is clear that, in the wake of the recent attack by an Iranian-backed militia on a US base in northern Jordan last month that killed three US military personnel, Washington is having a serious rethink about its long-term involvement in the region.
Not only did the attack on the Jordan base result in the US launching a wave of attacks against Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria, but it has prompted the Biden administration to review its approach to Iran and the threat it continues to pose to the stability of the region.
Apart from providing the military support to Hamas that enabled it to launch its devastating attack against Israel on 7 October, Iran is also supporting a number of other militant groups in the region.
The Houthi rebels in Yemen, for example, have been responsible for targeting shipping in the Red Sea and Hezbollah in south Lebanon, which continues to threaten Israel’s northern border.