Pentagon Outlines ‘Four Objectives’ in Middle East

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The Defense Department has set out four key objectives as the United States attempts to shape the unfolding showdown between Israel, Hamas, and a broader network of Iranian-aligned regional militias, in which the U.S. and its troops have become enmeshed.

Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder told journalists in a Monday briefing that the prime U.S. objectives are the “protection of U.S. forces and citizens in the region.”

Washington will also prioritize ensuring the “flow of critical security assistance to Israel as it defends against further Hamas terrorist attacks” and “coordination with the Israelis to help secure the release of hostages held by Hamas, to include American citizens.”

The fourth objective is the “strengthening of force posture across the region to deter any state or nonstate actors from escalating the crisis beyond Gaza,” Ryder said.

This, Ryder added, “includes the deployment of the USS Gerald R. Ford and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier strike groups, which are currently in the U.S. Central Command area, along with an Ohio-class submarine.”

U.S. Army soldiers board a helicopter on May 25, 2021, in northeastern Syria. U.S. troops in the Middle East are coming under fresh attacks amid Israel’s war with Hamas.
John Moore/Getty Images

The latest conflagration in Gaza has already reached far beyond the devastated Gaza Strip. More than 10,000 people have already been killed there, the Associated Press reported, citing Gaza Health Ministry figures.

The Israel Defense Forces campaign was launched after Hamas’ October 7 attack on southern Israel, which killed more than 1,400 people there and saw 242 hostages taken, the AP said. Only four hostages—among them two Americans—have so far been released.

Lebanese Hezbollah and the Houthi movement in Yemen have both been launching attacks on Israeli targets while Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad continue their operations from Gaza. Tensions are high in the occupied West Bank, too, where at least 153 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces and extremist Israeli settlers, according to the AP.

The U.S. is supporting Israel’s offensive, sending significant amounts of munitions and other military equipment to the IDF and deploying additional naval and anti-air assets in the region to deter aggression from anti-Israeli and anti-American forces elsewhere. Though the White House has repeatedly stressed the need for Israel to avoid civilian casualties—reportedly to little effect—it has dismissed calls for a ceasefire.

The U.S. has also been trying to deter further attacks on its own forces in Syria and Iraq. NBC News reported on Monday that there have been 38 attacks on U.S. targets in the region since October 17, with at least 45 servicemembers injured. One civilian contractor died during a drone attack alert in western Iraq last month.

The Pentagon responded to the escalating attacks last month with a series of airstrikes on Iranian-linked targets in Syria. President Joe Biden described the operation as “narrowly tailored in self-defense,” adding: “Iran wants to hide its hand and deny its role in these attacks against our forces. We will not let them.”