National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. will react "in a time in a manner of our choosing. We don’t want a wider war with Iran" — a sentiment shared by the prepositional subject. "But we’ve got to do what we have to do." Our timely manner is not entirely by choice, for Kirby went on to note that we don't really know who planned and executed the attack. It "clearly had all the earmarks” of either Kataib Hezbollaha or a group supported by Kataib Hezbollah. In this region, it's turtles all the way down.

Sanam Vakil of London’s Chatham House adds further anxiety to tensions by asserting that the killing of American soldiers adds "further anxiety that a regional war is actually here." I see statements like that as similar to our blithe acceptance of Donald Trump's appalling behavior; if we acclimate our minds to a regional war, a regional war becomes that much easier to blithely engage. Then again, I write such things myself, so I shouldn't knock Ms. Vakil. She says containment of this rapidly sprawling clusterbumble depends on "who, what, when and how the Biden administration responds" — an observation that only a highly specialized think tank could conceive.

Vakil expects U.S. surgical strikes on Iranian-backed groups outside of Iran. Biden may make that choice, but if he does he can expect deafening blowback from domestic groups. We know who they are; they're just waiting for grounds on which they can stand and shriek weakness. Having no responsibility for the consequent, tangibly destructive blowback to come from Iran frees them from any motivation to behave reasonably. In a way they're like Iran and its militia groups: attack, attack, attack the Biden Administration.  

Says Iran's foreign ministry: "The resistance groups in the region do not take orders from the Islamic Republic of Iran in their decisions and actions." Probably nine times out of 10 there's truth to that, as I explained here. Nevertheless, Iran is what the law would call a "proximate cause," which bears culpability. Thus the ministry went a bit too far in claiming accusations against Tehran are "baseless," adding that its nation's peace-loving leaders prefer to work "through diplomatic means." At times, sure; on the other hand, such innocent pronouncements coming from a ruthless, murderous, tyrannical regime such as Iran strike one as a trifle hollow. 

The ministry finished its defense with some offense, accusing the U.S. of "exacerbating insecurity" by stationing troops in Iraq and Syria, and now launching airstrikes on Yemen. Again, Iran possesses some legitimacy in complaining about foreign troops so close to its border. The U.S. certainly wouldn't tolerate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard stationing men in Mexico. But it overreached by dragging Yemen into the controversy. The Iranian-backed Houthis are inflicting great harm on international commerce in the Red Sea; somebody has to stop them.

Just as somebody should have stopped Israel's far-right leadership from bombing Palestinians into the Middle East's Middle Ages. Its actions post-7 October ignited this 1914 Balkanlike situation  The death toll in Gaza is now over 26,000, most of the victims, women and children. In short order the Biden administration began scrambling to contain the bloodthirsty objectives of Israel's war cabinet. With each diplomatic scramble, the admin got the finger. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is having far too much political fun claiming his country is facing an "existential threat." It might, if he and his fellow warmongers persist in their Gazan obscenities. 

If not, Israel may become Serbia redux, 1914. Nationalistic fervor out of control, long-standing ethnic hatreds, a small nation leading big nations into a global inferno. The one major difference — so that one man, Mr. Netanyahu, can remain in power. There's still time for somebody, wink-wink, to pull the plug on Israel's martial capabilities. But that time is growing perilously short.