The United States launches airstrikes against Iranian-backed proxies in Iraq and Syria

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The United States carried out strikes in Iraq and Syria on Friday, the first retaliation against Iran-backed proxy groups, nearly a week after a drone strike killed three American soldiers stationed in the region.

The attack, confirmed by a US official, is the first in what the Pentagon said was a series of retaliatory strikes. It marks a further escalation by the United States in the Middle East, raising fears that it will be drawn into a widening regional conflict triggered by the war between Israel and Hamas.

The Joe Biden administration has sought to avoid an escalation despite attacks by Iran-backed militias against American military personnel in Iraq, Syria and Jordan. The United States also launched a campaign of missile attacks against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen last month.

“We will have a tiered response and, again, we have the ability to respond multiple times, depending on the situation,” Lloyd Austin, the US defense secretary, said on Thursday.

Washington blamed last Sunday’s drone attack on its base in Jordan, which also wounded 41 service members, on the Islamic Resistance in Iraq – a shadowy umbrella group that includes Kataib Hezbollah, a radical Shiite militia, as well as other groups that have claimed responsibility for the attack. more than 160 attacks against US troops since mid-October, after the war between Israel and Hamas began.

The IRI is part of the Iranian-controlled Axis of Resistance and has also targeted Israeli interests since Hamas’ attack on the Jewish state in October.

Biden has faced pressure from some Republicans to strike Iran directly in response to last week’s attacks, which follow months of attacks by Houthi rebels on commercial vessels in the Red Sea, a key shipping route for global trade.

The United States has carried out more than 10 strikes against Houthi positions in Yemen in an effort to reduce the group’s ability to attack international shipping traffic.

“I don’t think we need a broader war in the Middle East. That’s not what I’m looking for,” Biden told reporters Tuesday after saying he had decided how to respond.

Iranian officials have also said they do not seek direct conflict with the United States and Israel or a regional war.

“We do not seek war, but we are not afraid of it,” Major General Hossein Salami, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said Wednesday.

Biden’s decision to attack came after several meetings in recent days with his national security team to decide on an appropriate response. Meanwhile, Kataib Hezbollah said on Wednesday it had stopped attacks on American troops.

The United States said it did not take that statement literally and said Kataib Hezbollah was not the only group to attack its troops.

Friday’s assertive response further contributes to making the Middle East increasingly unstable. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on Monday that the region was in its most dangerous phase since the Yom Kippur war between Israel and its neighbors in 1973.

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