In a decisive move, the U.S. military initiated airstrikes on Friday in Iraq and Syria, targeting over 85 sites associated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and its supported militias. This action was in response to the recent attack in Jordan that claimed the lives of three U.S. troops.
Multi-Tiered Response Unveiled by President Biden’s Administration
President Joe Biden’s administration has unveiled a multi-tiered response to the attack orchestrated by Iran-backed militants, with the airstrikes being the first step. These strikes, conducted with long-range B-1 bombers flown from the U.S., signify a significant escalation in the Middle East conflict.
The strikes specifically targeted command and control centers, rockets, missiles, drone storage facilities, as well as logistics and munition supply chain facilities. The U.S. military executed these precise strikes across seven locations, four in Syria and three in Iraq.
The primary focus was on the Quds Force, the foreign espionage and paramilitary arm of the IRGC, known for its influence across the Middle East. U.S. Lieutenant General Douglas Sims reported successful attacks, with large secondary explosions indicating the destruction of militant weaponry. However, casualties among those in the facilities remain unclear.
Escalation Concerns and Regional Reactions
While the airstrikes did not extend into Iran, they underscore a growing escalation in the conflict, reminiscent of Israel’s ongoing war with Palestinian Hamas militants. Syrian state media reported casualties and injuries resulting from the “American aggression,” emphasizing the potential for instability in the region.
The Iraqi military condemned the strikes as a violation of sovereignty, warning of dire consequences. Iraqi military spokesman Yahya Rasool stated, “These airstrikes…pose a threat that could lead Iraq and the region into dire consequences.”
Retaliatory Measures and Assessment
The airstrikes were a direct response to the attack in Jordan, marking the first deadly strike against U.S. troops since the Israel-Hamas war began. U.S. officials have attributed the attack to Iran, specifically identifying a drone manufactured by the country.
President Biden emphasized that the response had commenced and would continue at selected times and places. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin affirmed that these strikes marked the beginning of the U.S. response but clarified that the intention is not to seek war with Iran.
International Criticism and Future Developments
Despite the Pentagon’s emphasis on avoiding war, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Roger Wicker, criticized the administration for its response timeline and perceived lack of impact on Iran. Wicker expressed concern over the Biden administration telegraphing its intentions, providing adversaries time to relocate and hide.
President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran declared that Iran would not initiate a war but promised a strong response to any attempts at bullying. The White House, however, confirmed no communication with Iran since the Jordan attack.
Ongoing Conflicts in the Region
The broader context involves ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan, with over 160 attacks on U.S. troops since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. Additionally, Houthi fighters in Yemen have targeted ships in the Red Sea, supporting Palestinians against Israel.
Diplomatic Moves and Future Talks
Amidst the tensions, Baghdad and Washington have agreed to establish a committee for talks on the future of the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq. The goal is to set a timetable for a phased withdrawal of troops and the conclusion of the coalition against the Islamic State. The Iraqi government was notified ahead of time regarding Friday’s strikes.