Pressure mounts on Biden to confront Iran after troop deaths

He could also point to the fact that he had ordered the US strike that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guards general Qasem Soleimani in 2020 – although Trump has also admitted to calling off another strike on Iran with 10 minutes to spare in 2019 despite being “cocked and loaded”.

Other Republicans also gave notice they would use Iran as a test case of Biden’s strength ahead of the elections.

“The entire world now watches for signs that the President is finally prepared to exercise American strength,” Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee and a leading hawk, urged Biden to “hit Iran now. Hit them hard”

The dilemmas facing Biden are huge though.

Direct strikes on Iranian territory would be a giant escalation, but even lesser action against Tehran’s proxies could fuel the fires of conflict, while destabilizing efforts to reach a ceasefire in Gaza.

Further involvement would undermine Biden’s prized policy of extracting America from its “forever wars” in the Middle East – even if the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan on his watch led to a Taliban takeover.

“There’s a domestic political risk, which is Biden alienates part of his base progressives, anti-war folks, and at the same time, opens himself up to accusations of wag-the-dog,” said Clarke, referring to a movie in which a US president starts a war to distract from political issues at home.

“So I think it’s a really difficult situation.”

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