The US is said to have bombarded at least 85 targets with air strikes. This would include command posts and missile storage locations. 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 began 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 would harm us know this: if you harm an American, we will respond.”
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 the attacks killed 16 people and injured 25.
According to White House spokesman John Kirby, the United States had informed Iraq before the attacks took place. 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. Damascus said the attacks “killed civilians and military personnel and caused significant damage 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 of fatalities was 23.
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 al-Shadadi and in the south in al-Tanf, close to 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. EU President Belgium asks the United States not to strike back unchecked and not to further inflame the Middle East. EU foreign chief Josep Borrell also warns against escalation and insists on restraint. Minister Hanke Bruins Slot (Foreign Affairs) is counting on the US: “President Biden said he does not want to escalate, and that is important.”
Hamas condemns US retaliatory attacks and says Washington is adding fuel to the fire in the Middle East. The US “bears responsibility for the consequences of this brutal aggression against both Iraq and Syria,” the Palestinian military group said in a statement. Hamas has been embroiled in a bloody war with Israel since October, after the movement carried out a large-scale attack on that country. The US is an important ally of Israel.
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.