Biden orders airstrikes ‘Iranian-backed militant groups’ in Syria

Biden orders airstrikes 'Iranian-backed militant groups' in Syria

US President, Joe Biden ordered the military to carry out airstrikes against the assets of “Iranian-backed militant groups” in Syria, the Pentagon said in a statement on Thursday evening.

The strikes come after militants last week fired rockets that hit an Iraqi airbase used by the US military. That attack killed a US military contractor and wounded nine others.

Biden orders airstrikes 'Iranian-backed militant groups' in Syria

The Iranian government supports a number of militant groups in Iraq and Syria and has pledged continued retaliation for the January 2020 killing of its general, Qassim Suleimani, an assassination that came after Iraqi militant groups, days earlier, had killed another US military contractor in a rocket attack.

Thursday’s strikes, according to defense officials, were primarily aimed at the militants’ “infrastructure,” not necessarily their personnel.

Biden orders airstrikes 'Iranian-backed militant groups' in Syria
Biden orders airstrikes ‘Iranian-backed militant groups’ in Syria

“Specifically, the strikes destroyed multiple facilities located at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kait’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kait’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS),” the Pentagon said. The groups have deployed in Syria to support the regime of Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Tehran.

“The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and Coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq.”

The incident comes as the Biden administration is also seeking to engage Iran in diplomacy as part of an effort to restore the 2015 nuclear deal ended by former President, Donald Trump.

Last week, the US State Department said it would attend multiparty talks “to discuss a diplomatic way forward on Iran’s nuclear program.”

Meanwhile, Kait’ib Hezbollah earlier this week denied any involvement in the Erbil strike.

“We absolutely did not target Erbil or the Green Zone and have no knowledge of the group that did,” Kataib Hezbollah spokesman Mohammed Mohi told Reuters, which called the comments a “rare direct denial.”

The Feb. 15 attack in Erbil targeted a U.S. military base housed at Erbil International Airport. Days later, north of Baghdad another round of rockets struck a base hosting U.S. forces hurting at least one contractor.

The two strikes were followed by yet another rocket attack in Baghdad’s Green Zone on Monday.

On a flight from California to Washington, D.C., Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters that the Pentagon is “confident that that target was being used by the same Shia militants that conducted the [Feb. 15] strikes,” USA Today reported.

Austin, who says he recommended the action to Biden, added: “”We said a number of times that we will respond on our timeline. We wanted to be sure of the connectivity and we wanted to be sure that we had the right targets.”

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