Iranian-Backed Militia Group Wants A Timeout As U.S. Retaliation Looms

The decision by Khataib Hezbollah to pause attacks on U.S. forces is unlikely to change the Biden administration’s plans.

byHoward Altman|
Khataib Hezbollah says it is pausing attacks on U.S. troops in the region.
(Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images)


As the Biden administration ramps up plans to respond to a deadly attack on U.S. forces in Jordan on Sunday, an Iranian-backed militia group responsible for numerous strikes on U.S. troops in the Middle East says it is putting a pause on those actions.

Khataib Hezbollah (KH) announced “the suspension of military and security operations against the occupation forces - in order to prevent embarrassment to the Iraqi government,” the group said on Telegram Tuesday. “We will continue to defend our people in Gaza in other ways.”

The Pentagon has yet to assign blame on who carried out the attack on Tower 22 Sunday that killed Sgt. William Jerome Rivers of Carrollton, Georgia; Spc. Kennedy Ladon Sanders of Waycross, Georgia; and Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett of Savannah, Georgia and wounded 40 others.

However, KH has been blamed for many of the more than 160 attacks in Iraq and Syria against U.S. forces that have taken place since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

"Central Command is still assessing, but again, we are confident that this attack was sponsored by Iranian-backed proxies," the Pentagon's top spokesman said on Tuesday.

Asked about whether the KH statement would change any planned kinetic response against Iran or its proxies in the wake of the Tower 22 attack, Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said “actions speak louder than words."

“I don't think we could be any more clear that we have called on the Iranian proxy groups to stop their attacks,” Ryder told reporters, including from The War Zone. “They have not. And so we will respond in a time and manner of our choosing. When I say actions speak louder than words, there have been three attacks to my knowledge since the 28th of January. And I'll just leave it there.”

The al-Shaddadi base in northeast Syria came under an attempted rocket attack Monday, U.S. officials say. Google Earth image

Earlier in the day, President Joe Biden told reporters that he had made a decision about how to respond to the attack, but declined to elaborate.

Biden said he holds Iran responsible for the deaths of three soldiers “in the sense that they’ve been supplying the weapons to the people who did it.”

As for whether Iran was directly responsible, Biden said, “Well, we’ll have that discussion.”

Asked what will be different in a new strike when previous attacks against Iranian proxies have not deterred their actions, Biden said, “we’ll see.”

“I don’t think we need a wider war in the Middle East,” Biden said. “That’s not what I’m looking for.”

Iran has pushed back on assertions that it played a role in the Tower 22 attack.

“The resistance groups in the region do not take orders from the Islamic Republic of Iran in their decisions and actions,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nasser Kanaani said in a statement on Monday. “The Islamic Republic has no involvement in the resistance groups’ decisions on the way they support the Palestinian nation or defend themselves and the people of their countries in the face of any aggression and occupation.”

During his press briefing, Ryder declined to specify what actions the U.S. might take in response to the Tower 22 attack.

"I'm not going to get into any details about what a potential future operation could look like," he said.

So while KH is calling a timeout, it seems unlikely that will change the calculus for the Biden administration, which is under tremendous pressure to respond to the first fatal attack on U.S. forces since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

We will continue to monitor this volatile situation and provide updates when and if an expected response occurs.

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