UpdateThe United States has carried out multiple attacks on positions of elite Iranian military units and Iranian allies in Iraq and Syria. The attacks resulted in several deaths and injuries.
The US is said to have bombarded at least 85 targets with air strikes. This would include command posts and missile storage facilities. B-1 bombers, among others, were used in the attacks.
The bombings are seen as retaliation for the deaths of American soldiers in Jordan. An American base was attacked there with a drone on Sunday, resulting in three deaths and dozens of injuries. According to the US, the drone attack was carried out by Iran’s allies.
US President Joe Biden then issued a statement: “Our response started today. It will continue at the times we want. The United States does not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world. But let anyone who wants to harm us know this: If you harm an American, we will respond.”
Our response started today. It will continue at the times we want
Iraq on Saturday labeled the US retaliatory strikes as ‘a violation of Iraqi sovereignty’. It also warned of “disastrous consequences for the stability of Iraq and the region,” according to a statement from an Iraqi military spokesman. Iraq said 16 people were killed in the attacks and 25 were injured.
According to White House spokesman John Kirby, the United States had informed Iraq before the attacks took place. He said this to reporters shortly after Iraqi condemnation of the attacks. Baghdad denies this and says the Americans are lying.
The Syrian government emphasizes that the American occupation of parts of the country can no longer continue. It is a response to the series of air strikes that the US has carried out in the region. According to Damascus, ‘civilians and military personnel were killed and significant damage was caused to private and public property.’ The government does not (yet) indicate how many victims were killed in the attacks, but according to a Syrian human rights organization the number was eighteen.
Since the fight against the ‘caliphate’ of the Islamic State terrorist movement, American troops have been on Syrian soil, including in the Kurdish-dominated northern regions. American bases are located in the east near the town of Al-Shaddadi and in the south in Al-Tanf, near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders. These are often bombarded by, among others, Iraqi groups that receive support from Iran.
It was the first time that American troops have been killed by enemy fire in the Middle East since the start of the war in Gaza. Jordan has condemned the ‘terrorist attack’ on the Americans. The White House said the attack was carried out by “radical Iranian-backed militant groups active in Syria and Iraq,” without naming any group or movement.
Responsibility for the attack has not yet been claimed. In the statement, President Biden previously said that the United States would not let the attack go unanswered: “And have no doubt: we will hold all those responsible accountable at a time and in a manner of our choosing.”
The retaliatory attacks on Iran’s allies in Iraq and Syria are causing concern in several EU countries. Current EU President Belgium, among others, asks the United States not to strike back unchecked and not to further set the Middle East on fire. EU foreign chief Josep Borrell also warns against escalation and insists on restraint. Minister of Foreign Affairs Hanke Bruins Slot is counting on the US. “President Biden said he doesn’t want to escalate, and that’s important.”
CNN reports, based on American officials, that the US is not planning to carry out air strikes on Iran itself. Attacking Iran would mean a huge escalation of tensions, which the sources say is unlikely.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to the Middle East on Sunday. It is his fifth visit to the region since October 7. Then fighters from the Palestinian movement Hamas and other groups attacked Israeli territory around the Gaza Strip, which has been virtually sealed off since 2007.
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