USA conducts airstrikes on Iran-backed militias in Syria

Ruben Hill
February 26, 2021

Earlier this month, a USA military base in Arbil was hit with rockets.

"This proportionate military response was conducted together with diplomatic measures, including consultation with coalition partners", the Pentagon's chief spokesman, John Kirby, said in announcing the strikes.

"President Biden will act to protect American and coalition personnel", Kirby said in a statement.

By hitting a facility in Syria said to be tied to Iranian-linked militia groups, the US avoids raising tensions that would come with a strike directly on Iran, which the Biden administration is seeking to persuade to return to the 2015 nuclear deal that Trump withdrew from three years ago.

Meanwhile, there is no reaction in the markets to these events, but a watchful is being kept on developments.

Syria war monitoring groups said the strikes hit trucks moving weapons to a base for Iranian-backed militias in Boukamal.

Explosive-laden drones that targeted Saudi Arabia's royal palace in the kingdom's capital last month were launched by Iran-backed militia from inside Iraq, officials claim.

The targets were at a control point on the border with Iraq and the Pentagon said "multiple facilities" used by Iranian-backed militant groups were "destroyed".

Iran-backed groups have splintered significantly since the Washington-directed strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad more than a year ago.

In the February 15 attack, rockets hit the US military base housed at Erbil International Airport in the Kurdish-run region, killing one non-American contractor and injuring a number of American contractors and a USA service member. "We wanted to be sure of the connectivity and we wanted to be sure that we had the right targets".

Biden administration officials condemned the February 15 rocket attack near the city of Irbil in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish-run region, but as recently as this week officials indicated they had not determined for certain who carried it out.

"At President Biden's direction, USA military forces earlier this evening conducted airstrikes against infrastructure utilized by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria", Pentagon spokesman john Kirby said.

Russian Federation "strongly condemns" the US' Thursday night attack along the Syrian-Iraqi border, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said.

A USA official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to provide additional details, said the single strike targeted a cluster of buildings along Syria's eastern border and was believed to have killed up to a handful of people.

Speaking to the press, Austin said that the U.S. was "confident in the target we went after", adding that "we know what we hit".

The attacks in Iraq laid down a challenge to the new Biden administration just as it opened a door to resumed negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear programme.

Former President Donald Trump's administration had ordered a drawdown of diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad with the approach of the one-year anniversary of Soleimani's death on January 3 in anticipation of violent reprisal by Iran. The airstrike appears to be part of a USA message to Iran that it can not improve its leverage in talks by attacking US interests.

Earlier this week, the Kata'ib Hezbollah group, one of the main Iran-aligned Iraqi militia groups, denied any role in the rocket attacks.

The US response to the attack was awaited though it was not clear how exactly would the new administration handle the escalation in Iraq.

Days after his death, Iran launched missile attacks against US forces at an Iraqi air base in Anbar Province that wounded more than 100 troops.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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