The United States started carrying out retaliatory strikes on Friday in Iraq and Syria against facilities linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the militias they back, U.S. officials said, after a deadly attack in Jordan that killed three U.S. 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 weekend attacks that the U.S. says were carried out by Iran-backed militants.
While the U.S. strikes did not target any locations inside Iran, they are likely to increase concern about tensions in the Middle East spiraling from Israel’s more than three-month-old military offensive against Palestinian Hamas militants in Gaza.
Biden and other top U.S. leaders have been warning for days that the U.S. would strike back at the militias, and they made it clear that it wouldn’t be just one hit, but would be a “tiered response” over time.
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It was unclear what the next steps will be, or whether the days of U.S. warnings have sent militia members scattering into hiding, making it more difficult for the U.S. to detect and strike them. But it was evident that the recent statement released by Kataeb Hezbollah, one of the main Iran-backed militias, saying it was suspending attacks on American troops had no impact on the administration’s plans to strike back.
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The U.S. strikes also appeared to stop short of directly targeting Iran or its Revolutionary Guard Quds force. Iran has denied it was behind the Jordan strike.
U.S. Central Command said manned and unmanned aircraft struck more than 85 targets, including command and control operations, intelligence centers, weapons and vehicle storage facilities, and “logistics and munition supply chain facilities of militia groups and their IRGC sponsors who facilitated attacks against U.S. and coalition forces.”
Syrian state media said on Friday 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.
The initial strikes came just hours after Biden and top defense leaders joined grieving families to watch as the remains of the three Army Reserve soldiers were returned to the U.S. during a somber ceremony at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
—With additional files from the Associated Press and Global News