The United States conducted its first military operation on Thursday., Targeting the infrastructure used by Iranian-backed militant groups in Syria for the recent rocket attack in Iraq. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told reporters traveling with him that he had recommended the strike to Biden, and Biden called him on Thursday morning.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement: “The action sends a clear message: President Biden will take action to protect American coalition personnel.”It has been targeting US forces in Iraq and Syria for many years. The most recent incident was a rocket attack on the northern Iraqi city of Erbil last week. Four US contractors and one military personnel were injured.
The strike destroyed multiple facilities at the Syrian al Bukamal border control point. Many Iranian-backed militant groups used these facilities, includingAccording to Kirby, there is also Katib Sayyid al Shuhada (Kataib Sayyid al Shuhada).
A Pentagon spokesperson did not mention any casualties, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring organization, said on Friday that 22 people were killed in the strike. The strike hit three trucks carrying ammunition that were transported from Iraq to Syria. .
The organization relies on a wide range of sources in Syria and usually provides reliable information. The organization said that all the victims are believed to be members of Iranian-backed militias, most of them from the Qatab Hezbollah. The observatory said that the death toll may increase due to some of the wounded being in serious conditions. Sources of the organization said that after the strike, Iran-backed organizations immediately evacuated several locations in Bukamar, fearing that the United States would launch further attacks.
Carefully selected target
In his first military strike during the presidency, Mr. Biden approved a target along the border between Syria and Iraq, which would beU.S. personnel were harmed-but as Tehran tried to re-draw the Islamic Republic into the Islamic State, it did not further aggravate tensions with Tehran .
A government official confirmed that the Biden team had selected targets as part of a calibrated response aimed at achieving three things: sending a signal to Iran that the new US president will not tolerate rocket attacks, which would cause American personnel hurt. Avoid angering American and Iraqi partners who need to maintain good relations with Tehran and Washington, and avoid provoking Iran to retaliate further.
Two former Trump administration officials told CBS News that the Bukamar area has been the target of dozens of Israeli strikes in recent months because it is a transit point for Iran-backed Shiite militias in Syria and Iraq. Both officials admitted to choosing the location.
A former official said: “Because our exposure rate is low, it is easier to send a message here.”
The Biden administration’s strike on Iran-backed militias follows its first strikeRegarding the issue of US hostages in the country, as well as the talks openly proposed by European diplomats to restart Tehran’s nuclear program. Both of these diplomatic measures were made last week.
Last week, a rocket attack in Erbil, northern Iraq, killed a contractor who was not a U.S. citizen and wounded four U.S. contractors and a U.S. service worker. A total of 8 contractors were injured, 2 of which were severe enough to require evacuation.
The United States has evidence that the attack was carried out using equipment provided by Iran. The attack on Erbil included 14 rockets and 6 rockets in the orbit of the launcher.
The most recent air strike against Iranian-backed militias occurred in December 2019.. Iranian officials did not respond immediately to the US strike on Thursday.
Eleanor Watson and Tucker Reals contributed reports.