The Attack on the “American Military Base”

Navigating the Rules of the Regional Game

The recent drone attack on an American military base along the Jordanian-Syrian border has cast a veil of uncertainty over unfolding details, with repercussions expected to manifest in the coming days. Currently known are the American losses: three soldiers dead and thirty wounded.

The media and political arenas are ablaze with rhetoric and controversy, engaging in a heated debate about the precise location of Tower 22. Was it targeted on the Jordanian-Syrian border, or within Jordanian or Syrian territory?

The pivotal question emerges: Will this attack serve as a fundamental game-changer in the regional conflict, or is it a tactical maneuver echoing events of the past? The answer hinges on subsequent responses. Will it unfold tactically, as witnessed before—with U.S. forces targeting Iran-affiliated military militias (self-styled as the ‘Islamic resistance in Iraq’) in Syria or Iraq? Or will the U.S. opt for a more direct approach, striking Iran itself? Such a decision could trigger larger reactions, shaping the future dynamics of the conflict. Determining the response remains challenging, but as a preliminary assessment, two possibilities arise: the attack has complicated the positions of key stakeholders, propelling them toward perilous decisions.

For the American administration, the aversion to escalating the conflict into a regional affair is unmistakable. It has consistently conveyed a series of messages underlining the ‘importance of not expanding the conflict’s scope’ while exerting efforts to manage the involved parties. This commitment is particularly evident in dealings with the Hezbollah-Israel front and, even at a tactical level, in addressing the Houthi challenge in the Red Sea.

However, envisioning similar responses proves challenging this time, given the backdrop of ongoing election campaigns, heightened political rivalries in Washington, and the delicate image of President John Biden. While it is certain that considerations will revolve around more impactful objectives and a comprehensive strategy, the clarity wavers on whether Tehran itself will become a target, thereby altering the rules of the game significantly. Alternatively, the approach might be confined to severe strikes on militias and the pursuit of leaders of the Quds Force.

On the other hand, Iran has shown a reluctance to dive into a comprehensive confrontation with the United States. Instead, it favors proxy wars, limited clashes, preoccupation, and rioting. The question arises: Does Tehran perceive recent events as part of its tactics on the fringes of the Gaza war, within what is termed ‘Arenas of Support’? Or is it a response to the recent killing of prominent Iranian military and security leaders, especially in Syria a few days ago?

Does Tehran have a clear plan if targeted by an American strike, triggering a direct response that could inflame the region? Alternatively, will it opt for regional reactions, escalating tensions while sidestepping a major confrontation, perhaps by directing stronger strikes at the American military presence? In any case, it appears unlikely that Tehran will escalate its response to the point of targeting Israel, unless Israel initiates military strikes first.

Jordan finds itself in a challenging and intricate position. While it has taken decisive stances against the Israeli war on Gaza, resulting in heightened tension with Tel Aviv, the country was unprepared for an escalation in the drug and smuggling conflict on its northern borders. Consequently, the Jordanian army engaged in unprecedented confrontations with drug traffickers along its Syrian borders.

There is also evident Iranian influence on the border with Syria, and this trade is part of a regional network linked to militias loyal to Tehran, serving as a significant source for an alternative economy amid U.S. sanctions.

This attack places Jordan at the crossroads of two conflicting considerations in national security calculations. The first involves the threat posed by the extreme right-wing government in Tel Aviv and its concerning tendencies, viewed with suspicion and concern by Jordan. The second consideration revolves around security on the northern border, with apprehensions about escalating tension and mutual attacks. This situation potentially puts Jordan in confrontation with Iran’s allies, who employ propaganda against Israel and its main supporter, the United States. The dissatisfaction among Jordanians towards the U.S., considering it the primary threat to regional security, has reached an unprecedented level, as indicated by a recent poll from the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies.

A few weeks ago, sources close to the so-called opposition alliance leaked information, suggesting that the confrontations on the northern Jordanian border are not arbitrary or merely security-related. Instead, they indicate an Iranian political decision to occupy American and Western bases on the Jordanian-Syrian border. Tehran sees Jordan as an advanced hostile trench, with Jordan not excluded from the list of targets in major confrontations. This necessitates a thorough examination and study to define the coordinates of the Jordanian position in the next stage, along with deciphering the messages from Jordan within national security calculations.

The situation is equally complex for both the Iraqi government and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Despite their alliance with Tehran, both parties are reluctant to enter the conflict arena, having avoided doing so from the beginning. They hold calculations that differ significantly from Tehran. This aligns with the stance of the Lebanese government, actively pressuring Hezbollah to avoid strategic involvement in the ongoing war.

The upcoming phase will be shaped by the exchange of messages from various parties, coupled with efforts at containment and mediation. Despite robust mechanisms preventing a full-scale shift into a regional conflict, the continuous surge of quantitative reactions may approach a tipping point. This suggests the potential for everyone to cascade into a regional conflict characterized by strategic calculations surpassing those of the entire preceding stage.

Back to top button