PRESIDENT Joe Biden ordered airstrikes on Iran-backed militants in Syria and Iraq on Sunday after drone attacks on US troops in the region, the Pentagon confirmed.
The president was “acting to protect the US” as his administration launched strikes on two targets in Syria and one in Iraq close to the border, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a statement.
He said that the sites targeted were used for “operational and weapons” storage by militia groups including Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada.
Kirby added that the facilities could launch unmanned aerial vehicle attacks against US troops in Iraq.
“As demonstrated by this evening’s strikes, President Biden has been clear that he will act to protect US personnel,” Kirby said.
“Given the ongoing series of attacks by Iran-backed groups targeting US interests in Iraq, the President directed further military action to disrupt and deter such attacks.”
It is not clear if there were deaths or injuries in the strikes.
Kirby said that Biden acted “to protect US personnel in Iraq” with authority granted to him in domestic law.
He added that the US was justified under international law to conduct the airstrikes as a matter of self-defense.
“We are in Iraq at the invitation of the Government of Iraq for the sole purpose of assisting the Iraqi Security Forces in their efforts to defeat ISIS,” Kirby said in the statement.
“The United States took necessary, appropriate, and deliberate action designed to limit the risk of escalation — but also to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message,” he added.
“The strikes were both necessary to address the threat and appropriately limited in scope.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised the airstrikes as a “targeted and proportional response.”
It comes after hardliner Ebrahim Raisi was elected Iran’s new president, according to the New York Post.
“Protecting the military heroes who defend our freedoms is a sacred priority,” Pelosi said in a statement.
“The Iran-backed militias utilizing these facilities have been engaged in attacks threatening US service members, as well as our allies.
“Congress looks forward to receiving and reviewing the formal notification of this operation under the War Powers Act and to receiving additional briefings from the Administration,” she added.
The Biden administration previously launched airstrikes in Syria close to the Iraqi border in February.
The move drew backlash from progressive Democrats.
It was also criticized by Republicans after the military action was taken without consultation with Congress.
The Pentagon claimed at the time that this airstrike was retaliatory and a “defensive” move.
The facilities hit were reportedly used by Iranian-backed militia groups as well.
It was carried out after a rocket attack on a US base in northern Iraq killed a contractor and injured an American service member.
Yet a top Iranian official claimed that Biden’s February strike expanded ISIS activity along the Syria-Iraq border.
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Biden said at the time that Iran should view his decision to authorize US airstrikes in Syria as a warning.
He said that there would be consequences for its support of militia groups that threaten US interests or personnel, The Associated Press reported.
“You can’t act with impunity. Be careful,” Biden said.
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