The United States on Thursday carried out an airstrike in Syria that reportedly killed 22 Iran-backed fighters in an apparent response to rocket attacks against US targets in Iraq that injured American troops and killed a contractor.
The US dropped seven 500-pound JDAMs on seven targets on a crossing used by the militia groups to move weapons across the border. Authorities said the airstrike targeted structures belonging to two Iranian-backed militias in Al Bukamal.
The airstrike was the first military action undertaken by the Biden administration, after repeated tensions between Iran and the Trump White House over the previous four years which reached a peak following Qassem Soleimani’s killing in early 2020.
While the strike could be the first retaliatory move by the United States following last week’s attacks, it appeared to be limited in scope, potentially lowering the risk of escalation.
Also a decision to strike only in Syria and not in Iraq would give the Iraqi government some breathing room as it carries out its own investigation of a February 15 attack that wounded Americans.
The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the strike was approved by President Joe Biden.
In announcing the strikes, John Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, said: ‘This proportionate military response was conducted together with diplomatic measures, including consultation with coalition partners.’
‘The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to deescalate the overall situation in eastern Syria and Iraq.’
Pentagon officials said they offered up several larger groups of targets but Biden approved the smallest option.