The United States launches retaliatory strikes in Iraq and Syria against Iranian-linked targets

President Joe Biden arrives aboard Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, Jan. 30, 2024.

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The United States launched airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against more than 85 targets linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and militias it supports, reportedly killing more than 30 people, in retaliation for a deadly attack on the US troops.

The strikes, which included the use of long-range B-1 bombers from the United States, were the first in a multi-layered response by President Joe Biden’s administration to last weekend’s attack by Iranian-backed militants.

More US military operations were expected in the coming days.

The attacks intensified a conflict that has spread across the region since war erupted between Israel and Hamas following the Palestinian militant group’s deadly assault on Israel on October 7.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said in a statement that the U.S. strikes represent “another adventurous and strategic mistake by the United States that will only result in increased tension and instability in the region.”

Iraq also condemned the US strikes, saying they killed 16 people, including civilians. In Syria, the attacks killed 23 people who were guarding the targeted sites, said Rami Abdulrahman, director of Syrian

Observatory for human rights, organization that denounces the war in Syria.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Director for Operations Lt. Gen. Douglas A. Sims II arrives to brief members of the House of Representatives in a closed-door classified briefing on the Hamas attack on Israel in the Visitor Center auditorium of the Capitol on October 11, 2023 in Washington, DC.

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US Lieutenant General Douglas Sims, director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the attacks appeared to have been successful, triggering large secondary explosions as the bombs hit the militants’ weapons. He said the attacks were undertaken knowing that there would likely be casualties among people in the facilities.

Despite the attacks, the Pentagon has said it does not want war with Iran and does not believe Tehran wants war either, even as Republican pressure has mounted on Biden to deliver a direct blow.

Iran, a Hamas supporter, has sought to stay out of the regional conflict even as it supports groups that have entered the fray from Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and Syria – the so-called “Axis of Resistance” that is hostile to Israel. and the interests of the United States.

“We are not looking for conflict”

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said after the attacks that Biden had directed further action against the IRGC and those linked to it. “This is the beginning of our response,” Austin said.

“We do not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else, but the president and I will not tolerate attacks against American forces,” Austin said.

An Iraqi government statement said the areas bombed by US aircraft include places where Iraqi security forces are stationed near civilian locations. 23 people were said to have been injured in addition to the 16 killed.

The White House said the United States notified Iraq before the attacks. Baghdad later accused the United States of deception, saying the American claim of coordination with Iraqi authorities was “unfounded.”

Syria’s Foreign Ministry said the United States was fueling conflict in the region in “a very dangerous way.”

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Friday that his country would not start a war but would “respond forcefully” to anyone who intimidates it.

Hamas condemned the American attacks and said Washington was pouring “oil on the fire”.

Britain called the United States its “solid ally” and said it supported Washington’s right to respond to the attacks.

Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, arriving for an EU meeting in Brussels, said the US attacks were the result of Iranian proxies “playing with fire”.

More than 160 attacks against American troops

The strikes hit targets including command and control centers, rocket, missile and drone storage facilities, as well as ammunition supply chain and logistics facilities, the US military said in a statement.

In Iraq, local residents said several attacks hit the Sikak neighborhood in Al-Qaim, a residential area that locals said was also used by armed groups to store large quantities of weapons. The militants had left the area and gone into hiding in the days after the attack on Jordan, local sources said.

US troops have been attacked more than 160 times in Iraq, Syria and Jordan since October 7, usually with a mix of rockets and one-way attack drones, prompting the US to launch several retaliatory strikes even before the latest strikes.

The United States has assessed that the drone that killed the three soldiers and injured more than 40 other people in Jordan was made by Iran, U.S. officials told Reuters.

“Our response began today. It will continue at the times and places of our choosing,” Biden said.

The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Roger Wicker, criticized Biden for not imposing a high enough cost on Iran and for taking too long to respond.

Iranian advisers assist armed groups in both Iraq, where the United States has about 2,500 troops, and Syria, where it has 900.

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