Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made a rare appearance in the Pentagon press briefing room yesterday to blame all of America’s problems in Southwest Asia on Iran. “In the aftermath of the vile Hamas terrorist assault on Israel on October 7th, terrorist groups backed by Iran and funded by Iran have tried to create even more turmoil, including the Houthis attacking commercial shipping in the Red Sea,” he said during his opening remarks. He promised that the U.S. “will continue to work to avoid a wider conflict in the region but we will take all necessary actions to defend the United States, our interests, and our people. And we will respond when we choose, where we choose, and how we choose.”
As National Security Council spokesman John Kirby had done the day before, Austin hinted at a U.S. response to last week’s attack on the Tower 22 base in Jordan that will be broader both in time and space than a mere retaliatory strike. “I will just tell you that, we will have a multi-tiered response, and again, we have the ability to respond a number of times depending on what the situation is,” he said.
Austin attributed the Jan. 28 attack to Iran by “connectos” rather than evidence. “We believe that this was done by an element of what is known as the Axis of Resistance, and these are Iranian proxy groups,” he said. “And how much Iran knew or didn’t know, we don’t know, but it really doesn’t matter because Iran sponsors these groups, it funds these groups, and in some cases, it trains these groups on advanced conventional weapons.”
Austin did not provide any further details as to what a U.S. “multi-tiered response” will be, but CBS News reported U.S. officials have confirmed that plans have been approved for a series of strikes over a number of days against targets—including Iranian personnel and facilities—inside Iraq and Syria. In other words, the U.S. is aiming to kill Iranians but not inside Iran.