THE US will launch a series of strikes on Iranian targets over multiple days in revenge for Saturday’s killing of three American troops.
Official sources revealed plans for the retaliatoryhave been approved and will involve a blitz on Iranian people and facilities.
The bombshell scheme was leaked as US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin decried the barrage of drone and rocket attacks recently carried out by Iran-backed militias on US forces in the Middle East.
He said on Thursday afternoon: “The president will not tolerate attacks on American troops and neither will I. Our teammates were killed by radical militants backed by Iran, operating in Syria and Iraq.”
Mr Austin added that Iran-backed rebels had “tried to create even more turmoil” ever since terror group Hamas unleashed its terror on Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 240 hostage.
He declared: “This is a dangerous moment in the Middle East.
More on Biden’s revenge plans
“We will take all necessary actions to defend the United States, our interests, and our people.
“We will respond when we choose, where we choose, and how we choose. That’s what everyone here is focused on.”
US officials today told CBS News that plans have been approved for retaliatory strikes to be carried out against Iranian personnel and facilities in Iraq and Syria.
The strikes will come in response to attacks targeting US forces in the region, including Saturday’s deadly assault on a US military outpost known as Tower 22 in Jordan which killed three – including Breonna Moffett, 23, whose family say was on her first tour of duty.
Experts have warned the US’ retaliation would have to involve “severe violence against the Iranian regime” to avoid facing more attacks.
Former British Army commander Colonel Richard Kemp told The Sun on Monday that the attacks against US forces in Jordan were a “major new escalation” because it was the first time Americans had been killed by enemy fire in the region since the beginning of the Gaza war.
He said: “The Americans must respond in a decisive way.
“It’s not good enough just for the Americans to respond against Iranian proxies, now they must respond against Iran itself.”
American officials said that while the US can carry out strikes in bad weather, it prefers to have better visibility of its selected targets as it reduces its chances of inadvertently hitting civilians, CBS reports.
So the timing of the impending strikes will depend on weather.
This is a dangerous moment in the Middle East.
Iran-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah announced on Wednesday that it was suspending military operations against US forces; there have been no attacks against American troops in the region since.
The delay of the US military’s retaliatory strikes is not understood to be related to the militia group’s declared pause in hostilities.
Iran is a vital backer of Hamas and many other terrorist groups across the Middle East, including the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are behind recent attacks against ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Col Kemp told The Sun earlier this week that the US’ attack will need to be “a hit on IRGC positions, bases, and individuals resulting in severe destruction and death to Iranian terrorists who have been responsible for these attacks”.
He added: “And we’re not really talking necessarily about an equivalent number. I think, if anything, the US should be looking at a more significant attack than the Iranians carried out over the weekend.”
Retaliating in such a way – against the Iranian regime’s ruthless terror-raging wing, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – would be more likely to lower the threat of the current conflict escalating to an all-out war than to increase it, Col Kemp predicted.
He said to do anything less would be viewed by Iran as a sign of weakness, and simply provoke further and increased violence against the US and its allies.
US President Joe Biden was on Tuesday thought to be considering blitzing Iranian naval assets in the Persian Gulf as part of his plan for revenge against Iran-backed militias.
Meanwhile, IRGC chief Maj Gen Hossein Salami vowed Iran will respond to any threat from the US.
He said: “We hear some threats from American officials about targeting Iran. We tell them that you tested us and we know each other.
“We do not leave any threat unanswered, and we do not look for war, but we are not afraid of it. This is the well-known truth.”
Who are the Houthis?
THE Houthi rebels are terrorising vessels and warships in the Red Sea – but who are they?
The Shia militant group, which now controls most of Yemen, spent over a decade being largely ignored by the world.
However, since the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war they sprung from relative obscurity to holding roughly £1trillion of world trade hostage – turning one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes into an active warzone.
Their warped slogan is “Death to America, Death to Israel, curse the Jews and victory to Islam”.
Why are they attacking ships?
The rebel group has been launching relentless drone and missile attacks on any ships – including warships – they deem to be connected with Israel in solidarity with their ally Hamas.
The sea assaults have threatened to ignite a full-blown war in the Middle East as ripples from Israel’s war in Gaza are felt across the region – with Iran suspected of stoking the chaos.
However, there have been frequent attacks on commercial vessels with little or no link to Israel – forcing global sea traffic to halt operations in the region and sending shipping prices soaring.
Houthi attacks in the Red Sea increased 50 per cent between November and December.
The rebel group’s leaders have previously pledged the attacks will continue until Israel stops its devastating offensive inside Gaza – despite recent US and UK strikes on their military strongholds.