US starts retaliatory strikes in Iraq and Syria, officials say

WASHINGTON – The United States carried out retaliatory strikes on Feb 2 in Iraq and Syria against facilities linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the militias they back, four US officials said, after a deadly attack in Jordan that killed three US troops and injured some 40 others.

The strikes are believed to be just the first in a multi-tiered response by President Joe Biden’s administration in response to the attack last weekend carried out by Iran-backed militants.

While the US strikes did not target any locations inside Iran, they are likely to increase concern about tensions in the Middle East spiralling from Israel’s more than three-month-old war with Palestinian Hamas militants in Gaza.

The US military said in a statement that the strikes hit targets including command and control centres, rockets, missiles and drone storage facilities, as well as logistics and munition supply chain facilities.

The strikes hit more than 85 targets with more than 125 munitions, the military said. They targeted the Quds Force – the foreign espionage and paramilitary arm of the IRGC that heavily influences its allied militia across the Middle East, from Lebanon to Iraq and Yemen to Syria.

Syrian state media said on Feb 2 that an “American aggression” on sites in Syria’s desert areas and the Syrian and Iraqi border resulted in a number of casualties and injuries.

It came just hours after Mr Biden and Pentagon leaders attended the remains of the three American soldiers killed in the Jordan attack returning to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

The Jordan attack was the first deadly strike against US troops since the Israel-Hamas war erupted in October and marked a major escalation in tensions.

The United States has assessed that the drone that killed three of its soldiers and also wounded more than 40 other people was made by Iran, US officials have told Reuters.

But the Pentagon said it did not want war with Iran and did not believe Tehran wanted war either, even as Republican pressure increased on Mr Biden to deal a blow directly against Iran.

Before the retaliatory strikes on Feb 2, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said that Iran would not start a war but would “respond strongly” to anyone who tried to bully it.

Iranian advisers assist armed groups in both Iraq, where the US has around 2,500 troops, and Syria, where it has 900. The IRGC has recently scaled back deployment of senior officers in Syria due to a spate of deadly Israeli strikes.

US troops have been attacked over 160 times in Iraq, Syria and Jordan since the Hamas rampage in Israel that killed 1,200 people, according to Israel tallies, and sparked the conflict on Oct 7.

Houthi fighters in Yemen have been firing drones and missiles at ships in the Red Sea, which they say is intended to support Palestinians against Israel.

At least 26,422 Palestinians have been killed and 65,087 injured in Israeli strikes on Gaza since Oct 7, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

The United States has already retaliated in Iraq, Syria and Yemen in response to previous attacks by Iran-backed groups, including against an IRGC facility.
REUTERS

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