Austin Says Iran Trains and Funds Militias Targeting U.S. Troops


Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III stopped short on Thursday of blaming Iran for attacks that killed three U.S. service members on Sunday in Jordan but said that Tehran trained and funded the militia groups that have targeted American troops and commercial shipping in the Middle East.

Mr. Austin, in a rare show of bravado, continued the Biden administration’s promises of retribution. Asked why the administration was forecasting a dayslong campaign of retaliation, Mr. Austin said the Iran-backed militias “have a lot of capability.”

He paused and added, “I have a lot more.”

President Biden has promised that the United States will respond to Sunday’s attacks at a remote base used by American troops in Jordan. Those killed were Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46, of Carrollton, Ga.; Specialist Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, of Waycross, Ga.; and Specialist Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23, of Savannah, Ga. The Pentagon says that 40 American troops were injured.

Biden administration officials say that the drone strike crossed a red line and that there is no way the president will not respond.

Mr. Austin, during a news conference on Thursday, reiterated that. “We will respond when we choose, where we choose and how we choose,” he said.

Iran has signaled that it will not escalate tensions with the United States. The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday that Tehran was “not looking for war.” And Kataib Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militia that American officials believe is responsible for the attack in Jordan, has said it would suspend military operations in Iraq, where it operates.

A statement by the group indicated that it had come under pressure from Iran and Iraq to stop attacking U.S. troops.

But the head of the Revolutionary Guards also warned that Iran was prepared to respond if attacked.

“You have tested us and we know each other — we will not leave any threat unanswered,” Gen. Hossein Salami, the chief commander of the powerful military organization, was quoted as saying by Iranian state news media.


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