Pentagon confirms strikes against 85 targets in Iraq and Syria
US forces have begun a new bombing campaign in the Middle East to punish Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force and affiliated militia groups in response to a series of drone and missile attacks on American military bases in the region.
Washington’s latest airstrikes began around midnight Baghdad time on Saturday and hit more than 85 targets in Syria and Iraq, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement. The operation involved “numerous aircraft,” including long-range bombers flown from the US, which dropped over 125 precision munitions on their targets.
Those targets included command and control centers, intelligence sites, weapons caches, and supply-chain facilities of Iranian-backed militias, as well as “their IRGC sponsors who facilitated attacks against US and coalition forces,” CENTCOM said.
The bombings follow a series of assaults on American military bases in the Middle East, including a drone attack that killed three soldiers and wounded more than 40 others at a secretive installation in Jordan. That base, called Tower 22, is located near the Syrian and Iraqi borders.
CENTCOM Statement on U.S. Strikes in Iraq and SyriaAt 4:00 p.m. (EST) Feb. 02, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) forces conducted airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and affiliated militia groups. U.S. military forces… pic.twitter.com/ZVx2uOQ1qD— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) February 2, 2024
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.
The IRGC’s Quds Force is an elite unit that specializes in guerilla warfare and intelligence-gathering outside Iran. It has sought to drive American forces out of neighboring Iraq since the US invasion in 2003.