US military responds to deaths of American soldiers
US forces have carried out airstrikes targeting Iranian-backed militants in Syria and Iraq in response to a series of assaults on American military bases in the region, including a drone attack that killed three American soldiers and wounded more than 40 others.
Washington’s latest strikes come nearly a week after Sunday’s deadly attack on a secretive US base in Jordan, near the Syrian and Iraqi borders, named Tower 22. The retaliatory bombings mark “the start of what will likely be a series of larger-scale US strikes on Iranian-backed militias who have carried out attacks on US troops in the Middle East,” CNN reported on Friday, citing two unidentified American officials.
An unidentified Pentagon official told the New York Times that Friday’s airstrikes targeted a half dozen sites in Iraq and Syria, “marking a sharp escalation of the war in the Middle East that the Biden administration has for four months sought to avoid.”
The attack on Tower 22 was “planned, resourced and facilitated” by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday. The group consists of multiple militias, including Kataib Hezbollah, which has launched multiple rocket and drone strikes against US forces in the region since the Israel-Hamas war began in October.
Kirby suggested that the US response would be carried out over multiple days. It “won’t just be a one-off,” he said. “As I said, the first thing you see will not be the last thing.” He added that Biden is still trying to avoid a broader war with Iran.
Media reports in recent days raised concern that Biden was telegraphing his plans and giving the militias too much time to take preparatory steps, such as vacating obvious targets. Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin tried to deflect those worries on Friday, denying that the administration was giving Iran too much warning. He said the US response will be “multi-tiered” and insisted that neither he nor Biden would tolerate attacks on American troops.
Biden has blamed Iran for supplying the weapons that Islamic militants have used in attacking US forces in the Middle East more than 150 times since the Israel-Hamas war started. He has faced political pressure to respond aggressively, including calls by Republican lawmakers to launch devastating strikes inside Iran.