The U.S. military performed airstrikes against Iran-backed militia targets along the Iraq-Syria border, the Pentagon announced Sunday.
The “defensive precision airstrikes against facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups in the Iraq-Syria border region” were initiated “pursuant to [the United States’s] right to defend itself,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.
“The targets were selected because these facilities are utilized by Iran-backed militias that are engaged in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacks against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq. Specifically, the U.S. strikes targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one location in Iraq, both of which lie close to the border between those countries,” he added.
The targeted facilities were used by militia groups Kata’ib Hezbollah, or KH, and Kata’ib Sayyid al Shuhada, also known as KSS, Kirby said.
“Given the ongoing series of attacks by Iran-backed groups targeting U.S. interests in Iraq, the president directed further military action to disrupt and deter such attacks. We are in Iraq at the invitation of the Government of Iraq for the sole purpose of assisting the Iraqi Security Forces in their efforts to defeat ISIS,” Kirby continued. “The United States took necessary, appropriate, and deliberate action designed to limit the risk of escalation – but also to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message.”
Biden was asked about the Syrian airstrikes on Sunday upon returning to the White House after spending the weekend at Camp David, but he waved off the questions, saying he would “talk to [reporters] tomorrow.”
Biden first ordered strikes in February that destroyed facilities at a border control point used by the same militant groups targeted on Sunday, a tactic he hoped would send a clear message to Iran.
“You can’t act with impunity,” Biden warned Iran on Feb. 26 after the initial strikes. “Be careful.”
Rockets hit the U.S. base at Erbil International Airport in Iraq’s Kurdish-run region on Feb. 15, killing a contractor and wounding several U.S. personnel.
The Sunday strikes follow another development straining tensions between the U.S. and Iran as incoming Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi recently refused to budge on his country’s development of nuclear missiles, an escalation the Biden administration seeks to curb by reentering the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran nuclear deal.
“All sanctions must be lifted, and their removal must be verified. America must abide by its commitments under the nuclear agreement,” Raisi said last Monday. “The Iranian missile program is not subject for negotiations.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to answer directly when asked what the U.S. would do if Iran refused to commit to negotiating over the broader range of security threats.
“We are confident that if we are able to return to JCPOA compliance, from there, we will have the tools, additional tools, we need to address issues outside of the nuclear deal,” Price told reporters last Monday. “And in fact, we’ll be better positioned than we are right now.”
Former President Barack Obama first entered the U.S. into the agreement in 2015, but his successor, former President Donald Trump, withdrew the U.S. from the deal in 2018.
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Original Author: Jeremy Beaman