The US military conducted airstrikes against Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria on Sunday, following strikes against US personnel and facilities by the militias in Iraq, the Pentagon said. In addition to the Syria and Iraq strike targets, it struck storage and operational facilities at three locations in Syria and one in Iraq.
US officials were assured that President Biden would act to safeguard staff, the Pentagon said in a statement. While a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran is under consideration by Biden’s administration, the strikes came amidst escalating tensions. Biden appears to have compartmentalized defensive strikes to protect American personnel while also engaging Tehran in diplomacy.
Critics contend that Iran cannot be trusted, pointing to drone attacks as further proof that Iran and its proxies will never accept a U.S. military presence in Iraq or Syria. Biden and the White House declined to comment on the strikes on Sunday. The US military has been working with Baghdad to combat ISIS remnants and believes Iran is behind a recent ramp-up in drone attacks and rocket fire against US personnel and facilities.
During the month of April, US and coalition troops in Iraq were attacked by drones launched by Iran-backed militias. According to the Pentagon, the targeted facilities were used by Iran-backed militia, including Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada. An official with the Pentagon said that one of the facilities hit was used for the launch and recovery of drones.
In a statement, officials said the US military used F-15 and F-16 aircraft to carry out the strikes, and they added that the pilots returned safely. ‘We assess that each strike hit the intended targets,’ one official told. The Iraqi government is struggling to deal with militias ideologically aligned with Iran who has been accused of shooting rockets at US forces and killing peaceful pro-democracy activists. As a result of insufficient evidence, Iraq released Iran-aligned militia commander Qasim Muslih, who was arrested in May on terrorism-related charges.