The US early Monday morning carried out airstrikes on two Iranian proxy militias in Syria and Iraq. According to the Dept. of Defense, these two groups had recently been engaged in drone attacks against the US in Iraq. The strikes were carried out by US Air Force fighter-bombers based in the Middle East.
— Nafiseh Kohnavard (@nafisehkBBC) June 28, 2021
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement that “at President Biden’s direction, US military forces earlier this evening conducted defensive precision airstrikes against facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups in the Iraq-Syria border region.” According to Kirby, the facilities in question were Iranian proxy militias Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada for storage of arms and ammunition.
The Iranian proxy militias have used small drones loaded with explosives in late-night attacks on Iraqi bases. The drones divebomb and crash into their targets, which have included CIA and US Special Operations units. No Americans have been hurt in those attacks, but US military officials are concerned about the drones’ accuracy which puts US assets in great jeopardy. The drones are part of an evolving network of militias using sophisticated weaponry and hitting American targets in the region.
According to the NY Times, Democrats and Republicans in Congress, as well as Biden’s security advisers, have been pressuring the president to retaliate against the militias that threaten both US diplomats and the 2,500 American advisers in Iraq.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley briefed President Joe Biden on attack options against these two groups early last week, and he approved them, Pentagon officials told the NY Times.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Monday morning that explosions were heard near the Syrian-Iraqi border as a result of bombing by unidentified aircraft targeting the movements of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization located near the border with Iraq and inside Syrian territory.
Syria’s SANA news agency said that one child was killed and that at least three others were wounded in the attack.
Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed reported from Baghdad that the US attacks were “significant” and that the Iranian militias are threatening to retaliate, saying “they will attack American military facilities with missiles.” They’ve also said that “the United States only understands the language of force.”
“We also know these groups are blaming the United States for not withdrawing from Iraq and for not implementing the decision by the Iraqi House of Representatives,” Abdelwahed reported.
The Iraqi parliament last year passed a resolution calling for all foreign troops to leave the country following the assassination of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.
Former assistant secretary of defense Lawrence Korb told Al Jazeera that Monday morning’s raid was “very definitely” Biden’s “serving notice” on Iran.
“The first time he used military force was about a month after he was inaugurated,” Korb told Al Jazeera. “I think it was no accident that he did it then to send that signal to Iran. The fact that he’s doing it now while they are about to undergo the seventh round of the talks on the JCPOA is him saying: ‘Just because we are there, it doesn’t mean we are going to ignore [Iranian-backed terrorism].’”