Analysts say there are already signs that the most recent strikes are having an impact in Tehran, where a widely unpopular government already struggling with a weak economy, outbursts of mass protest and terrorism has little appetite for an all-out war with the United States.
But regional specialists say reining in Iran’s proxies, which rely on Tehran for weapons, intelligence and financing, may prove more difficult.
“Around 2020, Iran began to give blanket clearance to these groups to attack United States positions in Iraq and Syria,” Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., a retired head of U.S. Central Command, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “They have the opportunity to generate these attacks without directly going back to Iran.”
A major question for Mr. Biden and his national security aides is what additional targets in Iraq and Syria could be struck.
On Friday, American B-1B bombers and other warplanes hit targets at four sites in Syria and three sites in Iraq in a 30-minute attack, U.S. officials said. John F. Kirby, a National Security Council spokesman, said the targets at each site were picked because they were linked to specific attacks against U.S. troops in the region, and to avoid civilian casualties.
By avoiding targets in Iran, the White House and Central Command are trying to send a message of deterrence while controlling escalation, U.S. officials said. It is clear from statements from the White House and from Tehran that neither side wants a wider war. But, as the strike in Jordan showed, with any military action comes the chance of miscalculation.
Helene Cooper contributed reporting.