The US response, when executed, was extensive and well-communicated five days prior. The White House, Pentagon, and State Department had discussed the retaliation for the drone attack on a US base in Jordan extensively. Despite the warning of a “multi-tiered” response, the actual strike, involving 85 targets across seven facilities in Syria and Iraq, using over 125 precision munitions, came with surprises in its range and scale.
US Central Command reported that the strike targeted facilities used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and affiliated militia. President Joe Biden emphasized that it was only the beginning, with a promise of continued responses at chosen times and places.
The response, focused on stopping attacks rather than escalating into a war with Iran, had clear limits. No targets in Iranian territory were hit, and the intention was explicitly not to engage in a war with Iran. The delay in the response, allegedly due to weather conditions, aimed at minimizing civilian casualties by ensuring precise targeting.
Notably, three of the targeted facilities were in Iraq, despite ongoing tensions and Baghdad’s review of the US troop presence. While the US informed Baghdad beforehand, the Iraqi government considered the strikes an assault on sovereignty and an insult. The US prioritized degrading IRGC arms stockpiles while attempting to avoid a direct conflict with Iran and balancing its relationship with Iraq.