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U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to the media before he departs the White House for Florida, in Washington, U.S., January 30, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to the media before he departs the White House for Florida, in Washington, U.S., January 30, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

U.S. Carries Out Retaliatory Strikes in Iraq and Syria

Reuters
Total Views: 2538
February 2, 2024
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By Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON, Feb 2 (Reuters) – The United States carried out retaliatory airstrikes on Friday in Iraq and Syria against more than 85 targets linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and the militias it backs, the U.S. military said, after a deadly attack in Jordan that killed three U.S. troops and injured some 40 others. 

The strikes are believed to be just the first in a multi-tiered response by President Joe Biden’s administration to the attack last weekend carried out by Iran-backed militants. 

While the U.S. strikes did not target any locations inside Iran, they are likely to increase concern about tensions escalating in the Middle East amid a widening fallout from Israel’s more than three-month-old war with Palestinian Hamas militants in Gaza.

The U.S. military said in a statement that the strikes hit targets including command and control centers, rockets, missiles and drone storage facilities, as well as logistics and munition supply chain facilities.

The strikes hit more than 85 targets spanning seven locations with more than 125 munitions and included the use of long-range bombers that flew from the United States, the military said. 

They targeted the Quds Force – the foreign espionage and paramilitary arm of the IRGC that heavily influences its allied militia across the Middle East, from Lebanon to Iraq and Yemen to Syria.

Syrian state media said on Friday that an “American aggression” on sites in its desert areas and at the Syrian-Iraqi border resulted in a number of casualties and injuries. 

Earlier on Friday, Biden and Pentagon leaders attended the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware as the remains of the three American soldiers killed in the Jordan attack were returned.

MORE TO COME 

The Jordan attack was the first deadly strike against U.S. troops since the Israel-Hamas war erupted in October. 

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

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

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Biden had directed additional action against the IRGC and those linked to it.

“This is the start of our response,” Austin said.

But the Pentagon has said it does not want war with Iran and does not believe Tehran wants war either, even as Republican pressure has increased on Biden to deal a blow directly against Iran.

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

Before the retaliatory strikes on Friday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said that Iran would not start a war but would “respond strongly” to anyone who tried to bully it.

Iranian advisers assist armed groups in both Iraq, where the U.S. has around 2,500 troops, and Syria, where it has 900. The IRGC has recently scaled back deployment of senior officers in Syria due to a spate of deadly Israeli strikes.

U.S. troops have been attacked over 160 times in Iraq, Syria and Jordan since the Hamas rampage in Israel that killed 1,200 people, according to Israel tallies, and sparked the conflict on Oct. 7. 

Houthi fighters in Yemen have been firing drones and missiles at ships in the Red Sea, which they say is intended to support Palestinians against Israel.

At least 26,422 Palestinians have been killed and 65,087 injured in Israeli strikes on Gaza since Oct. 7, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

The United States has already retaliated in Iraq, Syria and Yemen in response to previous attacks by Iran-backed groups, including against an IRGC facility.

The move could complicate the U.S. military presence in Iraq. 

Baghdad and Washington have agreed to set up a committee to start talks on the future of the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq with the aim of setting a timetable for a phased withdrawal of troops and the end of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State.

Iraq’s shadowy Kataib Hezbollah, which is blamed for the Jordan attack, said on Tuesday it would pause attacks on U.S. forces. 

But another Iran-backed Iraqi group, Nujaba, said it would continue launching attacks on U.S. forces in the region until the Gaza war ends and U.S. forces exit Iraq.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart. Additional reporting by Jeff Mason; editing by Diane Craft and Rosalba O’Brien)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2024.

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