US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that the United States carried out strikes on Thursday against two facilities used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and its “affiliated groups” in eastern Syria.
The Pentagon announced the two operations after President Joe Biden sent a message to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warning against any attack on American forces that threatens to expand the scope of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. “A direct message was sent. “I will not go any further,” White House spokesman John Kirby confirmed.
“These self-defense and precision strikes are a response to a series of ongoing, and mostly failed, attacks on American personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-backed militias” since October 17, Lloyd Austin said in a statement.
According to the Pentagon, an American citizen died of a heart attack while hiding during one of these attacks, and 21 others were slightly injured but have since returned to work.
Austin warned that President Biden ordered the strikes “to make clear that the United States will not tolerate such attacks and will defend itself, its people, and its interests.”
“These are well-directed strikes for self-defense […] “It is separate and distinct from the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, and does not constitute a change in our approach” to this war, Mr. Austin insisted.
Earlier Thursday, the Pentagon said that US forces and their allies had been the target of at least 16 drone and missile attacks (12 in Iraq and four in Syria) since the beginning of the month.
Armed groups close to Iran have threatened to attack US bases in the Middle East because of Washington’s support for Israel in its war against Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic movement that controls the Gaza Strip and is close to Tehran.
On Wednesday, Ayatollah Khamenei accused the United States of “one way or another” directing Israeli operations against Hamas. On the same day, Joe Biden warned Iran against any attack targeting American forces. He added: “My warning to the Ayatollah is that if they continue to act against these forces, we will retaliate, and they must be prepared. It has nothing to do with Israel.”
Washington has about 900 soldiers in Syria and about 2,500 soldiers in Iraq fighting ISIS and frequently carrying out attacks targeting the jihadists.