According to the Pentagon, this is a “proportionate” response. The United States on Thursday struck infrastructure used by pro-Iranian militias in northeastern Syria, killing 17 in the Joe Biden administration’s first military operation in retaliation for recent attacks on Iranians. Western interests in Iraq.
Qualifying this military operation of “defensive”, the spokesman of the American Defense Department John Kirby, specified that strikes had destroyed “multiple infrastructures located at a border post used by militias supported by Iran, in particular Kataeb Hezbollah ”.
“The strikes were authorized in response to recent attacks on US and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and ongoing threats against such personnel,” he said. This is the same area from which rockets were fired in March 2020, killing three at a coalition base.
At least 17 fighters killed
According to preliminary information from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), the strikes destroyed three trucks of ammunition arriving from Iraq at an illegal border post south of the Syrian town of Boukamal . “There are a lot of deaths. At least 17 fighters perished according to a preliminary assessment, all members of Hachd al-Chaabi, ”OSDH director Rami Abdel Rahmane told AFP, referring to the powerful coalition of pro-Iran Iraqi paramilitaries.
As President Joe Biden awaits a gesture from Tehran before reinstating the agreement Washington withdrew in 2018 under Donald Trump’s administration, three attacks have been blamed on pro-Iranian armed groups in recent days. On Monday, rockets fell near the US embassy in Baghdad. On Saturday, fire targeted the Iraqi air base of Balad, further north, injuring an Iraqi employee of a US company in charge of the maintenance of F-16.
On February 15, rockets hit a military base hosting foreign coalition troops at Erbil airport (north). Two people were killed, including a foreign civilian contractor working with the coalition. According to US officials, the modus operandi is the same as for the dozens of attacks against Western interests between late 2019 and late 2020.
“It is the same style of attacks and intelligence information shows that others will follow,” an American official told AFP on Wednesday, on condition of anonymity.
The recent attacks came after months of relative calm over a truce accepted by pro-Iran factions in the face of threats from the United States to close their diplomatic mission.
On Thursday, the Pentagon spokesman stressed that “this proportionate military response has been carried out in parallel with diplomatic measures, in particular consultations with the partners of the anti-jihadist coalition” in Iraq and Syria. “The operation sends a clear message: President Biden will protect US forces and those of the coalition,” he concluded. “At the same time, we have acted in a calculated way, in order to calm the situation in eastern Syria and in Iraq”. Thursday’s strike appears as a warning to Tehran, which could be tempted to increase its room for maneuver in the event of negotiations with the United States.