A series of GOP lawmakers are ramping up the pressure on President Biden to retaliate against Iran following the strike in Jordan that killed three U.S. service members and injured at least two dozen others over the weekend.
The strike was carried out by “radical Iran-backed militant groups” on Saturday, killing three U.S. troops and wounding at least 25 other soldiers, Biden announced Sunday. Calling the strike “a One-Way ‘Suicide’ Drone Attack on a Patrol Base,” the Pentagon confirmed it occurred near the Syrian and Iraqi border in northeastern Jordan.
Several Republican lawmakers quickly hit the Biden administration for what they called past failed responses to other Iranian-linked attacks and urged the White House to take greater action moving forward.
House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner (R-Ohio) said he was “saddened” to hear about the drone strike, which he called a “direct result of the administration’s failure to respond to previous attacks.”
“The Biden Administration must take serious action against Iran and the terrorist groups that they’re funding to attack American troops and military bases,” Turner wrote in a Sunday statement.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) similarly hit Biden for not imposing “direct consequences” on Iran.
In a repost of his statement from November where he warned a lack of direct consequences will lead to the loss of American lives, Rubio wrote on X, formerly Twitter, “Two months ago I warned that if Biden didn’t impose direct consequences on Iran these attacks would spread beyond Syria & Iraq & kill Americans Tragically it has now happened just as I warned.”
The drone strike comes amid an increase in attacks against U.S. bases in the Middle East believed to be from Iranian proxies and Iran-backed groups in recent months. These attacks have increased since the war broke out in October between Israel and the militant Palestinian group Hamas, which Iran has backed in the past.
Concerns have been raised by lawmakers and other government leaders that the repeated attacks against U.S. bases and troops signal the risk of Israel’s war with Hamas escalating into a wider conflict in the Middle East.
Speaking to reporters in South Carolina, Biden held a moment of silence for the three fallen soldiers and said “we shall respond.”
In a statement to The Hill, White House spokesperson Andrew Bates reinforced Biden’s message, “As President Biden said today, we will respond decisively at a time and place of our choosing. President Biden has acted swiftly and forcefully to hold the Iranian backers of these hostile groups accountable – including with multiple air strikes.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-Texas) referenced the dozens of attacks on U.S. troops since October, writing in a Sunday statement, “The Biden administration’s failed Middle East policy has destroyed our deterrence against adversaries in the Middle East. We need a major reset of our Middle East policy to protect our national security interests and restore deterrence.”
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, argued in a statement that “it’s long past time” for Biden to “hold the terrorist Iranian regime and their extremist proxies accountable” for their attacks against the U.S. and coalition forces.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) called the attack “avoidable” and accused Biden of “embolden[ing] Iran, sending them billions and tolerating their aggression against our troops.”
Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) did not mention the Biden administration, but he said the U.S. “must send a crystal clear message across the globe that attacks on our troops will not be tolerated.”
The message among other Senate Republicans followed the same tune on Sunday. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) suggested the world is now waiting for an indication Biden “is finally prepared to exercise American strength to compel Iran to change its behavior.”
“Our enemies are emboldened. And they will remain so until the United States imposes serious, crippling costs — not only on front-line terrorist proxies, but on their Iranian sponsors who wear American blood as a badge of honor,” McConnell wrote in a statement.
Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.), the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, contended the Biden administration’s responses so far to the ramped-up attacks “have only invited more attacks.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has repeatedly spoken out against Iran since the Israel-Hamas war began in October, called on the Biden administration to “strike targets of significance inside Iran,” as both retaliation for the Saturday strike and deterrence for future attacks.
“Secretary Austin’s efforts to deter aggression against our forces in the region has failed miserably. I’ve long since lost confidence in the Biden national security team to deter Iran. If they do not change their policies now, more American service members in the region will pay the price,” Graham wrote in a post on X.
Bates on Sunday called the criticism “attempts by far right congressional Republicans to politicize our national security,” and called such moves “illogical” and “detrimental” to the country’s safety and security.
“In fact, these Republican officials never criticized the previous administration when the same militias attacked American troops, including in 2020. If congressional Republicans share President Biden’s priority of holding Iran accountable, they should back his retaliation against the groups who committed today’s acts, as well as the national security supplemental request – and they should stop giving Iran a pass for helping Russia attack Ukraine,” Bates wrote in a statement.
Biden’s national supplemental request, sent in late October, includes billions of dollars in funding for Ukraine, Israel, and other national security measures. The request has yet to pass as lawmakers have yet to come to an agreement. Several Republican lawmakers have vowed to only support funding for Ukraine if it is paired with border policy changes.
There was also criticism on the 2024 campaign trail where Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley and former President Trump blamed Biden for being “weak” on Iran.
“This brazen attack on the United States is yet another horrific and tragic consequence of Joe Biden’s weakness and surrender….” Trump wrote in a Truth Social post on Sunday.
Haley also contended Iran would not be attacking U.S. troops “if Joe Biden weren’t so weak in his treatment of Iran.”
Updated at 9:23 pm.