What Went Wrong at 'Tower 22'

Air defense system at US military base reportedly got confused by a friendly drone
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 29, 2024 11:38 AM CST
What Went Wrong at 'Tower 22'
This satellite photo shows a military base known as Tower 22 in northeastern Jordan.   (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

Since the Israel-Hamas war began in October, US forces in the Middle East have come under attack more than 150 times, notes Reuters. Most such attacks were deflected by air-defense systems or were otherwise deflated. On Sunday, though, a drone got through, killing three American troops and wounding more than 30 more at a base in Jordan. How the US responds could have huge ramifications. Coverage:

  • Bad luck: The Wall Street Journal reports that the incoming drone got through in part because an American drone was returning to the base at the same time, causing "some confusion over whether the incoming drone was friend or foe."

  • Tower 22: The attack took place at a remote outpost called Tower 22, which the AP explains is situated near a demilitarized zone on the border of Jordan and Syria. It's also only about 6 miles from Iraq. About 350 American troops are deployed there. Among other things, the US has used the base to supply the US military garrison called al-Tanf in Syria, per al Jazeera.
  • Iran angle: The enemy drone was fired by a militant group backed by Iran that operates out of Iraq, say US officials. Iran has denied any connection to the attack. Still, hawks in Congress (including Sens. Mitch McConnell and Tom Cotton) are pressuring President Biden to strike back aggressively against Tehran. Former President Trump has been quick to pounce, saying this never would have happened on his watch, per the Independent.
  • Goldilocks: The most aggressive option for Biden would be to attack Iranian forces inside Iran, per Reuters. Biden also could opt to hit them outside Iran or take a more limited approach of just going after the militants who fired the drone. The big fear is that Biden escalates all of the above into a full-fledged regional war, writes Peter Baker in the New York Times. "I'm sure they're looking for some kind of Goldilocks response here," says Brian Katulis of the Middle East Institute. As Baker explains, that means "'not too hard' that it provokes a full-fledged war, 'not too soft' that it just prolongs the conflict 'but something that seems just right.'"
(More US military stories.)

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