U.S. conducts airstrikes against Iran-backed militia in Syria

Andrew Cummings
February 26, 2021

Austin said he had recommended the action to President Joe Biden.

President Joe Biden ordered his first military airstrikes on Thursday, targeting "multiple facilities" used by by Iranian-backed militia groups in eastern Syria, according to the Pentagon.

Kirby said the US airstrikes "destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups", including Kataeb Hezbollah and Kataeb Sayyid al-Shuhada.

A US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the decision to carry out these strikes was meant to send a signal that while the United States wanted to punish the militias, it did not want the situation to spiral into a bigger conflict. "The decision to strike in Syria instead of Iraq was likely to avoid causing issues for the Iraqi government, a key partner in the continuing efforts against ISIS".

Retaliatory US military strikes have occurred a number of times in the past few years.

Renewed attacks on USA targets in Iraq show Iran-aligned factions are heaping pressure on the Iraqi government, while Tehran may be seeking leverage over the new United States administration, analysts say.

The Thursday evening strikes were in retaliation for a rocket attack in Iraq on 15 February that killed a civilian contractor and wounded coalition troops, including Americans.

A week later, a rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone appeared to target the US Embassy compound, but no one was hurt.

Even as the Biden administration vowed to always defend American personnel and interests, the Defense Department also tried to tamp down tensions between the USA and Iran before they spiral out of control. "And so this does raise a lot of questions about where they are going to go forward, since they just said they want to restart talks with Iran". The operation sends an unambiguous message; President Biden will act to protect American coalition personnel.

"We are confident that the target was being used by the same Shia militia that conducted the strikes" against American interests in Iraq, he said.

The response - or lack of one - reflects a desire not to disrupt the diplomatic overture in hopes Iran will return to the table and, if not, that the pressure of US sanctions will keep taking its toll, USA and European officials said.

"Responses like this are a necessary deterrent and remind Iran, its proxies, and our adversaries around the world that attacks on United States interests will not be tolerated", McCaul said. First, trying to deter the Iranian backed Shi'a militias from attacking U.S. Coalition forces and a response to the previous attacks over the course of the past week-and-a-half or so.

Iraqi security forces inspect damage after a rocket attack earlier this month.

Trump had said the death of a US contractor would be a red line and provoke USA escalation in Iraq.

Under Mr Trump, tensions with Iran soared, reaching a high point after a US-directed drone strike killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

It followed three rocket attacks on facilities in Iraq used by USA and coalition forces fighting the Islamic State group.

Other reports by iNewsToday