National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan appeared on multiple talk shows Sunday, and on ABC's "This Week," he said that the recent strikes against Iranian-backed militias in retaliation for the deaths of three U.S. servicemembers were "only the beginning" of our response.
Well, the first thing that I would say, and you noted it at the top of your program, is that this was the beginning of a – of our response. There will be more steps. Some of those steps will be seen. Some may not be seen. But there will be more action taken to respond to the death of the – the tragic death of the three brave U.S. service members.
“There will be more action taken to respond to the tragic death of the three brave U.S. service members.”— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) February 4, 2024
National security adviser Jake Sullivan says that U.S. retaliation against Iran-backed militants was the “beginning of our response.” https://t.co/d1z9lO3iIQ pic.twitter.com/p5L7HHQL8q
The Biden administration has been the subject of much criticism for its delayed—some would say weak—response to the attacks in the Red Sea, but Sullivan says the latest strikes are achieving their goal:
Well, George, part of the purpose of the strikes, the central purpose of the strikes, has been to take away capabilities from the Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria that are attacking or forces and from the Houthis that continue to threaten Red Sea shipping. And we believe they had good effect in reducing, degrading the capabilities of the militias and of the Houthis. And, as necessary, we will continue to take action.
Even though the administration often seems to be appeasing Iran—telegraphing attacks in advance to give the enemy time to relocate and releasing $6 billion in frozen funds in 2023—Sullivan tried to act tough when asked what would happen if the aggressions continue:
And we cannot rule out that there will be future attacks from Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria or from the Houthis. We have to be clear-eyed about that. And the president, in being clear-eyed about that, has told his military commanders that they need to be positioned to respond to further attacks as well...
We have to prepare for every contingency. And we were prepared for that contingency. And I would just say, from the perspective of Tehran, if they chose to respond directly to the United States, they would be met with a swift and forceful response from us.
Asked about the potential for direct escalation from Iran, national security adviser Jake Sullivan tells @GStephanopoulos, “If they chose to respond directly to the United States, they would be met with a swift and forceful response from us.” https://t.co/UWAVNlHJOZ pic.twitter.com/UAhnaIj63E— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) February 4, 2024
Sullivan talks a big game, but so far, the Biden administration has projected weakness and appeasement to the point where Iranian proxies seem to have no fear of repeatedly attacking our forces. We'll see if our latest responses change their calculus.