Last week in eastern Syria, two facilities connected to militias supported by Iran were the targets of US airstrikes. This action, reported by the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, was in response to a chain of drone and rocket attacks targeting US forces in the area.
These facilities were reportedly utilized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of Iran and its associated groups. The F-16 fighter jets utilized precision-guided munitions to target an armament and munitions storage facility located in Abu Kamal, situated near the border of Syria and Iraq.
Lloyd Austin characterized these strikes, which were authorized by President Joe Biden, as ‘meticulously tailored in self-defense.’ He clarified that these strikes were unrelated to the ongoing conflict in Gaza and directly pointed a finger at Iran for instigating assaults on US forces.
Austin stated firmly that Iran’s efforts to obscure its involvement in these hostile actions against the US forces will be futile. He did not hold back on further plans of action if Iran’s proxies persist in their assaults.
The US airstrikes in eastern Syria targeted two facilities, previously occupied by members of IRGC and affiliated militia groups. This was confirmed by a senior military officer. Yet, it remains uncertain whether the strikes led to any casualties.
The official, during a post-attack briefing, said that the attack was definite to have hit people, but the precise number of casualties, if any, is yet to be determined.
The people present at these locations were not civilians according to the senior official. It was conveyed that the places majorly consisted of Iranian-aligned militia groups and IRGC staff. Furthermore, the defense official dubbed Iran as ‘the core reason’ for the hostilities on US forces in the region. The official portrayed a picture of Iran’s heavy involvement stating, ‘The hallmarks of Iran are evident in all this.’
Iran, as per the defense official, is funding, endorsing, and guiding several militia groups across the region. Due to this escalation of attacks against the US forces since October 17, the countermeasures were necessary, the official claimed.
While the Biden administration has carried out strikes against militias in the past, this particular strike was launched to convey a stern warning to Iran and its militias not to raise the intensity of their attacks and instigate a broader conflict in the Middle East.
While the Middle East is already strained due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war that started with Hamas’ brutal terror attack on October 7, the US added more fuel to the tension.
Earlier on Thursday, an announcement regarding the dispatch of around 900 troops to the Middle East, with potential for more, was made by the US. It has also moved two carrier strike groups to the eastern Mediterranean Sea, and an amphibious readiness group closer to Israel in the Middle Eastern waters.
These US airstrikes follow a series of attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria since October 17. As per the announcements made on Thursday evening when the Syria strikes were disclosed, 19 attacks targeting US forces have taken place, according to sources at the Pentagon.
The majority of these attacks – twelve – occurred in Iraq, whereas four transpired in Syria, resulting in 21 service members of the US military sustaining injuries.
According to the Pentagon’s report, the injuries were minor and all troops have been restored to duty. In addition, a civilian contractor employed by the US experienced a fatal heart attack due to a false alert at one of the bases in Iraq.
On Friday, the US forces successfully intercepted and shot down an attack drone near the Al-Asad Air Base in Iraq, as reported by a US defense official. This was reported as the twentieth attack, marking the first after the US announcement of airstrikes in Syria.
In the early hours of October 27, the US forces took down the attack drone without further incident, just a few kilometers from the Al-Assad Air Base in Iraq, stated an official.
On Wednesday, amid the rising tension, President Biden issued a strong warning to Iran concerning its proxies’ attacks on US forces in the region. ‘We will react if they continued their aggressive movements against our troops, and they should be prepared,’ warned President Biden.
President Biden further clarified that the presence of US troops in Iraq and Syria is directed towards the campaign to destroy ISIS and has no connections to the current conflict in Israel.
However, contrary to these efforts to pacify the situation, the Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian maintained the tense climate at an emergency session of the UN General Assembly on Thursday. The US ‘will not escape this fire’ if the Gaza war does not extinguish, he declared.
Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian claimed that Iran had received two messages from the US. The nature, mode, and timeline of receipt of these messages were not disclosed by the minister. The first message communicated the US’s unwillingness to expand the conflict further, while the latter message encouraged Iran and its allies to exercise restraint.
The most recent known US strike against Iranian-supported militias in the region before this incident was in March, where a facility associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran was targeted. This happened post a similar array of drone and rocket attacks against the US premises in the region. Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, reinforced on Thursday that the US would always assert its right to self-defense, deciding upon the timing and location of retaliation.
In anticipation of a heightened threat, the Defense Department is fast-tracking the deployment of additional air defenses to the Middle East. The military equipment comprises a THAAD battery (medium-range air defense system), long-range Patriot batteries, and short-range Avenger air defense systems. Although the exact timeframe and locations for the deployment have not been disclosed by the Pentagon, it is reported that the US is supplying two Iron Dome air defense systems to Israel to cater to its security needs.