The White House has refused to rule out US action inside Iran following a wave of retaliatory airstrikes across the Middle East.
This weekend saw the US hit dozens of Iran-backed militia sites in Iraq, Syria and Yemen in response to a deadly attack at a military base in Jordan which left three US service members dead last month.
On Sunday, president Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan told US news networks that further military action was likely, and would not rule out the possibility of strikes inside Iran’s borders.
“I’m not going to get into what’s on the table and off the table when it comes to the American response,” he told CBS.
Mr Sullivan called the airstrikes “the beginning, not the end of our response”. However, the US has insisted that it does not want a wider conflict across the Middle East.
Iraq’s government condemned the US strikes. “This aggressive strike will put security in Iraq and the region on the brink of the abyss, and it also contradicts efforts to establish the required stability,” wrote Bassem Al-Awadi on X, formerly Twitter.
A spokesman for Iran’s government called the US action a “violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq and Syria, international law and a clear violation of the United Nations Charter”.
In January, Sgt William Jerome Rivers, Sgt Kennedy Ladon Sanders and Sgt Breonna Alexsondria Moffett were killed in an aerial attack at their base by Iran-backed militants.
President Biden faces a growing problem within his Democratic party over Israel’s intensive military campaign in Gaza following the deadly Hamas terrorist attacks on 7 October. Some are frustrated with what they see as Mr Biden’s failure to stand up to Israel’s right-wing leader, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Some of those grievances were reported by Politico on Sunday. “This is a disaster politically,” one House Democrat told the news outlet. “The base is really p***** – and it’s not just the leftists. I have never seen such a depth of anguish as I’ve seen over this Gaza issue. Bibi is toxic among many Democratic voters and Biden must distance himself from him – yesterday.”
The president has sent more weapons to the Israeli military even as some Democrats have demanded that the US call for restraint in the Gaza response.
Mr Biden appeared to hear some of those concerns this past week. He signed an executive order authorising the US Treasury Department to issue sanctions against individuals involved in the illegal (and often violent) Israeli settlement movement that targets Palestinians and their land in the West Bank and other regions.
Mr Sullivan told NBC on Sunday that the Biden administration does not have an accurate picture of the number, or status, of American hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza.
“We’ve learned over the course of this conflict that at least two American citizens passed away on 7 October, who we previously thought were hostages,” he said.
“So we cannot with any clear sense say the exact number of hostages, but we know that there are many, and we know that it’s our job, day in, day out, to try to bring them home.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, hawkish conservatives have been urging direct strikes against Iran following the attack in Jordan.
“Hit Iran now. Hit them hard,” said Republican senator Lindsey Graham after the Jordan attack.
“The only thing the Iranian regime understands is force. Until they pay a price with their infrastructure and their personnel, the attacks on US troops will continue.”