US President Joe Biden spoke to reporters Tuesday before boarding a presidential helicopter and said, “I don’t think we need a wider war in the Middle East. That’s not what I’m looking for. But a wider war is precisely what Biden is exacerbating by wholeheartedly backing Israel’s brutal offensive against Gaza and the 2.3 million Palestinians trapped there. Calls for an immediate ceasefire are increasing, and although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised that the war will be protracted, the US, as Israel’s main arms supplier, could stop the bombing with a simple phone call. If not, the wider war that Biden hopes to avoid seems increasingly plausible.

A potential escalation of the conflict was triggered by the recent killing of three US Army reservists stationed at the so-called ‘Tower 22’, a military base in the Jordanian desert near the Syrian and Iraqi borders. The base is home to approximately 350 members of the US Army and Air Force. Along with another US military garrison called al-Tanf, located about 20 kilometres to the north in Syria, these detachments are part of the US military presence aimed at countering Islamic State.

In the early hours of Sunday 28 January, a drone was able to breach the air defences of Tower 22 and attack the soldiers who were sleeping in their sleeping quarters. The three soldiers killed – Sergeant William Rivers, 46, Specialist Kennedy Sanders, 24, and Specialist Breonna Moffett, 23 – were African Americans from the state of Georgia. An estimated 40 other people were injured in the blast.

In the US, calls are increasing for swift retaliation, including those urging President Biden to attack Iran. Some media commentators are quick to point out that the US is in an election year and that Biden cannot therefore allow himself to be perceived as a weak military leader.

Texas Republican state senator John Cornyn said on social media: ‘Target Tehran’. Similarly, fellow Republican Lindsey Graham said: “The only thing the Iranian regime understands is FORCE”. He added: ‘Hit Iran now and hit them hard’.

But not everyone is calling for revenge. Perhaps the most powerful and poignant call comes from the parents of one of the dead servicemen. The Associated Press reported: “Moffett’s parents said they hope there will not be an escalation of violence that results in the deaths of more U.S. soldiers. Francine Moffett, Breonna Moffett’s mother, told the Associated Press on Monday: “I just hope and pray that no other family has to go through this. [It breaks your heart and your soul.

In addition to the intense offensive against Gaza that began after the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, there have been military actions in several areas of the Middle East. Israel and the Hezbollah group have exchanged artillery fire along the Lebanese-Israeli border, with casualties on both sides. Yemen’s Houthi rebels have attacked cargo ships in the Gulf of Aden that were bound for or linked in some way to Israel, the United States and the United Kingdom and have hijacked at least one of the vessels. These actions have destabilised international shipping through the vital Suez Canal. In response, the US has launched multiple missile and artillery strikes against Yemen. For its part, Iran has attacked targets in Iraq, Pakistan and Syria. To increase volatility in the region, Turkey has been intensifying its offensive against US-allied Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq.

Trita Parsi, an Iranian-American citizen and expert on Iran-related issues and executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft think tank, told Democracy Now! “During the first two and a half years of Biden’s presidency there were about 60 attacks by these Iraqi militias against US military and bases. However, since October 7 […] there have been more than 160 attacks in the last 100 days alone. At some point, one of those attacks was going to end up killing American people. And the president has basically accepted that risk […], instead of asking you about this whole strategy and why we’re exposing the US military to allow Israel to continue to indiscriminately bomb, kill and slaughter the people of Gaza.

Spencer Ackerman, foreign policy columnist for The Nation magazine, shares Parsi’s concerns. Speaking to Democracy Now! Ackerman said: “Even though the US says it is trying to contain the conflict, it is trapped in the logic of escalation. […] This is the result of the raft of decisions that Biden and his team have made to involve the United States more deeply in this escalating conflict. All of this could be stopped if the United States used its immense influence over Israel.

Polls show that a majority of the US population supports a ceasefire in Gaza. Dozens of US cities have passed resolutions requesting a cessation of hostilities in the Palestinian enclave. The most recent of these was passed by the Chicago City Council. However, with the continued supply of arms to Israel, the Biden administration seems intent on backing Israeli attacks on Gaza, despite the fact that the International Court of Justice recently concluded in an interim ruling that Israel may be committing genocide. The provision of arms and diplomatic shielding will not resolve the conflict. An immediate ceasefire and diplomatic talks leading to an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine is the only possible solution.

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