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3 Feb, 2024 09:39

US strikes targets across Middle East: What we know so far

Seven facilities in Iraq and Syria allegedly used by Iranian-backed forces have been attacked
US strikes targets across Middle East: What we know so far

The US has unleashed a series of airstrikes on militia groups across Iraq and Syria in response to an earlier attack in Jordan that killed three American soldiers and left dozens wounded.

What was in the Pentagon’s crosshairs?

The attack was directed at more than 85 targets, including command and control centers, intelligence facilities, and weapons storage facilities, which the US claims were used by groups linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) Quds Force, an elite clandestine unit specializing in foreign operations. Washington previously accused the groups of attacking the US and its allies in the region.

Tehran has claimed that these regional groups act independently.

According to White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby, the US attacked a total of seven facilities, three of which were in Iraq, and four in Syria. He said the raid involved B-1 strategic bombers dispatched from the US, which fired more than 125 precision-guided munitions over the course of about half an hour.

Kirby claimed that the targets were “selected to avoid civilian casualties” and were based on evidence that they were linked to attacks on US military personnel, adding that Washington believes the strikes were successful.

First of many

US President Joe Biden stated that the move was only the first in a series of retaliatory actions to come following the drone attack on US troops in Jordan. “Our response began today,” he said. “It will continue at times and places of our choosing.”

He added that the US “does not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world,” but will retaliate against anyone who might seek to harm Americans.

Echoing these remarks, Kirby said this “won’t just be a one-off” attack, but stressed that Washington does not want a conflict with Iran. He added that the targets “were chosen to degrade and disrupt capabilities of IRGC and groups they sponsor and support.”

Politico reported, citing two unnamed US officials, that Washington can now focus on Yemen to target local groups which the US believes are also linked to Iran.

What was the US retaliating for?

The Pentagon said Iranian-linked groups have conducted more than 160 raids on US bases and forces in the Middle East since October 7, when tensions in the Middle East flared up once again after the Palestinian armed movement Hamas, which has close ties with Tehran, launched a surprise attack on Israel.

The new wave of US airstrikes came after a drone attack last weekend on Tower 22, a US base in Jordan located near the Syrian and Iraqi borders, killed three US soldiers and wounded more than 40 others. Responsibility was claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group for Shia militias. Biden blamed it on “radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq.”

Backlash

Both Iraq and Syria have condemned the US strikes.

Iraqi military spokesman Yahya Rasool called the attacks “a violation of Iraqi sovereignty,” warning that they “undermine the efforts of the Iraqi government, and pose a threat that could lead Iraq and the region into dire consequences.”

The Syrian military, as quoted by SANA news agency, denounced the raid as “the aggression of the American occupation forces.” It insisted that the attack resulted in a number of deaths among civilians and soldiers, and came in an area where Damascus was fighting IS (Islamic State, formerly ISIS) terrorists.

These actions, the statement added, have “no justification other than an attempt to weaken the ability of the Syrian Arab Army and its allies in the field of combating terrorism.”

Meanwhile, in the US, Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson rebuked Biden for his weak foreign policy, suggesting that it took the White House an entire week to respond to the attack in Jordan. He stated that the administration’s “public handwringing and excessive signaling,” rather than a “clear and forceful response,” undercut Washington’s ability to respond to Iran.

Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene also accused Biden of pursuing a failing foreign policy. She stated that under the current president, the troops are spread too thin around the world, making them vulnerable to attacks while problems at home, including “terrorists, cartels, criminals invading our country,” have been completely neglected.

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