What to Know:
Defense officials have told several American media outlets that the Iran-backed Shia militia drone that was used to attack the T-22 outpost in Jordan, which killed three American soldiers and wounded three dozen others, avoided detection as it closely trailed behind an American drone heading back to base.
While this has not been officially confirmed by the United States military or government, unnamed defense officials have told AP, ABC, and Fox that the drone used in the attack was mistaken as a friendly drone as it approached the base flying at a low altitude.
Additionally, Politico, also citing defense officials, reported that the hostile drone was closely tailing an American drone heading back to base, further allowing it to avoid detection by air defenses at the outpost.
On Sunday, the drone struck a trailer housing American troops at the Tower-22 outpost in Jordan, killing three soldiers, identified as Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46, of Carrollton, Georgia; Spc. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, of Waycross, Georgia; and Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23, of Savannah, Georgia.
Three American heroes lost their lives this weekend by an Iran-backed drone attack in Jordan.
Dozens more were injured.
My prayers are with their families.
God bless our nation’s troops. pic.twitter.com/Z60STWaWoc
— Congressman Troy E. Nehls (@RepTroyNehls) January 29, 2024
At least 34 other service members were wounded, eight of which critically. The United States Central Command (CENTCOM) has described most of the injuries as TBI-related.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella organization of Iran-backed Shia militias that has been responsible for over 150 other attacks against American forces in recent months, claimed responsibility for the attack. The United States has vowed retaliation and strikes against Kataib Hezbollah and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, two militias likely involved in the attack, are likely to happen in the near future.
Why it Matters:
The likelihood that the drone masked itself by trailing an American one suggests a possible massive breach of security and intelligence. While there is a chance that this was just pure coincidence, there is the possibility that militia forces, backed by Iranian intelligence, exploited local sources around or potentially inside the facility to obtain information about American drone operations.
As noted by Middle East Institute Director Charles Lister, this would not be the first time that militia forces potentially leveraged local informants to carry out attacks. Back in March, militia forces carried out a drone attack against the RLZ outpost in Syria while air defense were briefly down for maintenance.
This attack marks the first of its kind outside of Iraq or Syria, as well as the first directly resulting in fatalities, since attacks began on October 17. This puts the United States in a position where it must respond to avoid further emboldening militia forces. Up until now, American retaliations to the attacks have been described by some as reserved, as to not further escalate tensions with Iran and the militias, especially amid rumblings of the United States wanting to withdraw from the region.
American strikes against Islamic Resistance in Iraq leadership, such as those a part of Kataib Hezbollah and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, and militia infrastructure are certain to be carried out in Iraq and Syria in the near future. One thing that is not certain is if the United States will directly attack the IRGC or its leadership, similar to the 2020 assassination of General Qassam Soleimani in Iraq.