Biden to receive bodies of soldiers killed in Jordan base attack

Published : 02 Feb 2024 10:08 PM

President Joe Biden on Friday will oversee the return to the United States of the bodies of three American soldiers, killed in a drone attack at a base in Jordan that Washington has blamed on Iran-backed militants. 

Amid strikes between US forces and Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria, as well as exchanges with Yemen's Huthi rebels, these were the first US military personnel killed by hostile fire in the region following the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

The bodies of William Jerome Rivers, Kennedy Ladon Sanders and Breonna Alexsondria Moffett will arrive at an air force base in Dover, Delaware, where they will be received with military honors.

The president previously received bodies at the base following the August 26, 2021 bombing at the Kabul airport, during the US pull-out from Afghanistan.

The White House has said a militia called the Islamic Resistance in Iraq was behind the attack on the base in Jordan, near the Syrian border. Biden has vowed a response, the nature and timing of which have not been declared publicly.

Pressure is mounting on the Democratic president during an election year where Republicans, including his predecessor Donald Trump, hope to retake the White House.

The Democrat, who has suffered many family tragedies of his own, is known to get emotional when greeting mourning Americans.

He already called each of the three families of the soldiers killed in Jordan, in part to make sure they were OK with his presence at the ceremony.

"I know there is nothing anybody can say or do to ease the pain, I've been there," Biden said in one call, recorded and shared by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper.

"I got one of these phone calls," Biden says in the video, his voice coming in over speakerphone, referring to the death in a car accident of his first wife and their infant daughter in 1972.

His son Beau died of cancer in 2015.

But Friday's ceremony will likely do little to quiet his critics, who are pushing him to strike Iran in response.

"He had to wait for people to die to say, OK, maybe we need to do something. Are you kidding me?" Republican primary candidate Nikki Haley said.

Trump, her primary challenger for the party's nomination, has attacked Biden as weak.

Anger over Israel's devastating campaign in Gaza -- which it launched after an unprecedented attack by Hamas on October 7 -- has grown across the Middle East, stoking violence involving Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria, as well as Yemen.

American forces in the region have been attacked more than 165 times since mid-October.

US forces have been striking targets in response, while Washington has said it wants to avoid a regional war and conflict with Iran.

The White House has promised a "very consequential" response to the Jordan base attack.