Since Hamas attacked Israel in October, the Middle East has grown increasingly unstable. Militia groups have attacked U.S. troops approximately 170 times, injuring a number of Americans and, tragically, killing three soldiers late last month. Houthi militants are regularly attacking commercial shipping and U.S. Navy vessels in the Red Sea, and two Navy SEALs were recently lost at sea off the coast of Somalia during a dangerous nighttime raid to interdict missile parts being shipped to the Houthis.
What these attacks have in common is that the groups committing them are financed, armed, and supported by Iran. This recent campaign of terror is just one part of Iran’s record of driving unrest, instability, and violence in the Middle East that goes back decades. Iran is the largest state sponsor of terrorism, operating through a network of proxies across the region. President Biden inherited a maximum pressure campaign intended to keep Iran in check, but throughout his presidency he has yielded to misguided policies that have emboldened the Iranian regime.
President Biden has a history of weakness and appeasement when it comes to Iran. Against the warnings of Republicans and Israel, the Biden administration attempted to revive the flawed nuclear deal negotiated under the Obama administration, which included sweeping sanctions relief. The Biden administration also attempted to unfreeze $6 billion in Iranian assets as part of a deal to free American prisoners, which would have provided Iran with a windfall to fund its proxies. Not to mention the president’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan – on a timeline announced to our enemies – that seriously dented the world’s perception of America’s resolve.
As Iran-backed groups have launched attacks on U.S. troops and American allies, the White House has responded mostly with half-measures and a weak posture that is neither deterring or degrading Iran and its proxies. The United States does not seek war, but we must be willing to assert our national interests, including the safety of our troops and freedom of maritime navigation. While the president has recently taken more forceful action, which was overdue, he is going to have to demonstrate sustained resolve in order to bring an end to Iran’s terror campaign in the Middle East. We cannot allow Iran to control or cut off shipping routes through their Houthi proxies. We cannot allow Iran to continue to enable Hamas and Hezbollah’s attacks against Israel. And we most certainly cannot tolerate attacks on our troops and the loss of American lives.
These recent attacks are a reminder of the very real dangers our servicemembers face. We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude for their bravery and the sacrifices they make to serve our country. I specifically want to commend the men and women of the 28th Bomb Wing that participated in the February 2 retaliatory strikes against 85 targets in Iraq and Syria. The 28th Bomb Wing, which is based at Ellsworth Air Force Base but had a contingent operating out of a base in Texas while our airfield was temporarily closed, flew B-1 bombers to the Middle East on a single marathon flight, taking off from U.S. soil, executing the mission, and returning back to base without interruption.
The ability to generate combat power capable of striking anywhere on the map is a testament to the professionalism and determination of the 28th Bomb Wing’s aircrews and maintainers. And it underscores the importance of preserving this capability now and well into the future. Later this decade, the B-21 Raider will make Ellsworth its first home as it ushers in a new era of American air power. Until that sixth-generation bomber is fielded, we need to continue full support for programs like the B-1.
The United States can’t solve every problem or bring peace to every conflict, but we can be a powerful force for good, if we’re willing to lead. There will always be evil actors in the world who are bent on aggression and violence. Failure to demonstrate strength risks more serious consequences for our national security both now and long into the future.