The attacks mark the first known action by the military under the presidency of Joe Biden. The site was not specifically related to the rocket attacks, but is believed to have been used by Iranian-backed Shiite militias operating in the region.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the attacks were carried out “under the direction of President Biden” and were authorized not only to respond to recent attacks on US and coalition forces, but to deal with “the ongoing threats to that staff.”
Kirby said Biden carried out the attacks after consulting with US allies, including coalition partners.
“Specifically, the attacks destroyed multiple facilities located at a border checkpoint used by various Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kait’ib Hezbollah and Kait’ib Sayyid al Shuhada,” Kirbry said. “The operation sends an unequivocal message; President Biden will act to protect American coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to reduce the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq.”
The site is believed to be used as part of an arms smuggling operation by the militias. The attacks were carried out to degrade the groups’ ability to carry out future attacks and send a message about the recent attacks, the US official said.
The decision to target the site in Syria was made “top-down,” said a defense official, and was not due to a specific recommendation from the army.
The attacks come as Washington and Tehran position themselves for negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, which could complicate an already fragile process.
The United States did not definitively blame any specific group for the rocket attacks nor did it attribute them to any Iranian representative in the region, but the administration made clear where they blame.
Earlier this week, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States holds Iran accountable for the actions of its representatives.
A rocket attack on February 15 against coalition forces near Erbil International Airport in Iraqi Kurdistan killed a civilian contractor and wounded four American contractors and one American service member. At the time, Psaki said that Biden and the administration “reserve the right to respond in a manner and at a time that we choose.”
“We will respond in a manner calculated according to our schedule and using a combination of tools, visible and invisible,” Psaki told reporters, a day after Biden spoke with Iraq’s prime minister, a discussion that focused primarily on the attacks. with rockets. “What we will not do, and what we have seen in the past, is to attack and risk an escalation that favors Iran by further destabilizing Iraq, and that is our priority,” added Psaki.
The US attacks come as Washington and Tehran position themselves for negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, which could complicate an already fragile process.
The administration has made clear where they blame the attacks, which came amid heightened concern that Iran or its proxies would retaliate to mark the first anniversary of the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by the United States.
“We have stated before that we will hold Iran accountable for the actions of its representatives targeting Americans,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday, noting that “many of these attacks have used weapons manufactured by Iran and supplied for Iran “.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh denied any link to the February 15 attack in Erbil and Iran has not claimed responsibility for any of the other attacks. “While these rumors are strongly rejected, the dubious attempt to attribute it to Iran is also strongly condemned,” Khatibzadeh said, according to a Feb. 16 report from Iran’s state news agency Mehr.
This story is breaking and will be updated