February 22, 2024

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The United States launched air strikes against Iran-linked targets in Iraq and Syria

The United States launched air strikes against Iran-linked targets in Iraq and Syria

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The United States carried out a wave of strikes against Iran-linked forces in Iraq and Syria on Friday, hitting targets that included facilities used by Iran's Revolutionary Guard in response to a drone attack that killed three American soldiers.

The US military said 85 targets at seven separate facilities were hit, including those linked to the Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force as well as Iranian-backed militias in the region. This was the first of what US President Joe Biden said would be a series of retaliatory strikes for the drone attack on a base on the Jordanian-Syrian border that killed three American soldiers last month.

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

The Iranian Foreign Ministry on Saturday denounced the attacks, calling them a violation of international law and saying the United States was making “another adventurous and strategic mistake.”

The Iraqi government also condemned the strikes, which it said resulted in the deaths of 16 people, including civilians.

The Iraqi Prime Minister’s Office said on Saturday, “This aggressive strike will put security in Iraq and the region on the brink of abyss.”

The Syrian army said the strikes resulted in the deaths of “many civilian and military martyrs” but did not provide details.

The airstrikes, including four sites in Iraq and three in Syria, were the first time the United States directly targeted the Quds Force in its campaign in the region. These strikes will increase fears that Washington will be drawn deeper into a widening regional conflict sparked by the war between Israel and Hamas.

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US officials noted that Friday's strikes were the first in a phased response.

John Kirby, spokesman for the US National Security Council, said: “These responses began tonight, and they will not end tonight.” “There will be additional measures we take, all designed to put an end to these attacks.”

Although Biden has repeatedly said he is not seeking to get involved in a broader war, he indicated on Friday that the United States would continue to respond if militants allied with Iran attack American targets.

“The United States does not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world,” he said. But let all those who might seek to harm us know this: If you harm an American, we will strike back.”

The Revolutionary Guard is an elite Iranian military force that defends the regime in Tehran, and is separate from the country's traditional army. Its Quds Force is responsible for external operations and trains and arms regional armed groups across the region.

Senior US officials said the United States used long-range B1 bombers in the attacks, among other aircraft. Lieutenant General Douglas Sims, director of operations for the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the bombers took off from the United States “on a single, non-stop flight.”

More than 125 precision-guided munitions were fired and struck facilities, including command, control and intelligence centres; Storage sites for missiles, missiles and drones; Central Command said: And logistical centers.

“We conducted these strikes tonight with the idea that there would likely be victims connected to the people inside those facilities,” Sims said.

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Initially, Biden showed restraint in the face of repeated attacks by Iranian-backed militias on American military personnel in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan. But in recent weeks, as those attacks have escalated, the White House has recalibrated its calculations. Last month, the United States launched a campaign of missile strikes against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, who attacked commercial ships in the Red Sea.

Iranian officials said that they did not want a direct conflict with the United States and Israel, or a regional war, and that the armed groups supported by Iran were acting independently. “We do not seek war, but we are not afraid of it,” Major General Hossein Salami, commander of the Revolutionary Guards, said this week.

Washington attributed the drone attack last Sunday on its base on the Jordanian-Syrian border, which also injured 41 American soldiers, to the Islamic resistance in Iraq. It is a shadowy umbrella group believed to include fighters from Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi Shiite militia, as well as other militants who have claimed responsibility for more than 160 attacks against US forces since mid-October, after the start of the Israeli military operation. Hamas war.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is part of the so-called Iranian Resistance Axis, which includes Iranian-backed fighters such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have launched attacks against Israel since the start of the war with Hamas.

Biden is under pressure from some Republicans to strike Iran directly in response to last week's attacks, which followed months of attacks by Houthi rebels on commercial ships in the Red Sea, an important shipping lane for global trade.

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The president's decision to attack came after several meetings in recent days with his national security team to decide on the appropriate response.

(Additional reporting by Najma Bozorgmehr in Tehran)