USA strikes 'Iranian-backed militant' site in Syria, says Pentagon

Henrietta Brewer
February 26, 2021

The strikes, which were first reported by Reuters, appeared to be limited in scope, potentially lowering the risk of escalation.

"These strikes were authorized in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel", Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. Biden's decision to attack in Syria did not appear to signal an intention to widen us military involvement in the region but rather to demonstrate a will to defend USA troops in Iraq.

"At President Biden's direction, United States military forces earlier this evening conducted airstrikes against infrastructure utilised by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria", said spokesperson John Kirby in a statement.

US President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi spoke about this week's rocket strikes on the US embassy in Baghdad, the White House said Tuesday, with both leaders saying those responsible should be "held fully to account".

CNN's Phil Mattingly concurred, noting that the Biden administration was trying to achieve a "delicate balance" with this airstrike, "trying to keep the proxies in check, trying to make clear to Iran, even in a small calculated scale, that they are paying attention, that they will strike back - while they are also trying to reopen talks themselves".

"Good move by. Biden (administration) demonstrating U.S. can walk and chew gum at the same time", she said on Twitter. Then on Monday, two rockets hit hear the USA embassy in Baghdad, in the third attack within the past week. Another salvo struck a base hosting us forces north of Baghdad days later hurting at least one contractor. The U.S. under the previous Trump administration blamed Iran-backed groups for carrying out the attacks.

A United States service member and five other contractors were injured when the rockets hit sites in Irbil, including a base used by the US-led coalition.

Earlier, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the US action was a "proportionate military response" taken together with diplomatic measures, including consultation with coalition partners.

"The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and Coalition personnel", he said. "At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq", Kirby said. Officials have noted that in the past, Iranian-backed Shiite militia groups have been responsible for numerous rocket attacks that targeted US personnel or facilities in Iraq.

Some Western and Iraqi officials say the attacks, often claimed by little-known groups, are being carried out by militants with links to Kata'ib Hezbollah as a way for Iranian allies to harass US forces without being held accountable.

The attacks are usually claimed by shadowy groups that both Iraqi and USA officials say are "smokescreens" for hardline pro-Iran factions inside Iraq. Tensions soared after a Washington-directed drone strike that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and powerful Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis past year.

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