The US had warned it would strike back against Iran-linked targets after three US soldiers were killed on Sunday.
The United States military has launched dozens of air strikes against targets in Syria and Iraq in the first retaliation for a drone attack that killed three soldiers at a remote US base in Jordan.
“This afternoon, at my direction, US military forces struck targets at facilities in Iraq and Syria that the IRGC and affiliated militia use to attack US forces,” US President Joe Biden said in a statement on Friday, referring to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
“Our response began today. It will continue at times and places of our choosing,” he added.
US Central Command (CENTCOM) said its military forces struck more than 85 targets in the two countries “with numerous aircraft to include long-range bombers flown from the United States”.
“The air strikes employed more than 125 precision munitions,” it added in a statement.
CENTCOM said the facilities that were struck included command and control operations centres, intelligence centres, weapons storage sites and logistics and munition supply chain facilities of groups linked to attacks against US forces.
CENTCOM Statement on U.S. Strikes in Iraq and Syria
At 4:00 p.m. (EST) Feb. 02, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) forces conducted airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and affiliated militia groups. U.S. military forces… pic.twitter.com/HeLMFDx9zY
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) February 2, 2024
Three US soldiers were killed and about 40 others injured in a drone attack on the military base known as Tower 22 near the Jordan-Syria border on Sunday.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a coalition of Iran-linked groups, claimed responsibility for the drone attack.
“The US had said since the moment that attack happened that there would be a military response, and US officials like Joe Biden and Lloyd Austin said the response would come in multiple fashions. So this could very well be the first phase, but those retaliatory US air strikes have now begun,” said Al Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan, reporting from the Pentagon.
“This is the first step, I don’t think that it will be the last one,” she added.
On Friday, Syrian state media said that an “American aggression” on a number of sites in Syria’s desert areas and the Syrian and Iraqi border resulted in a number of casualties and injuries.
Iraqi security sources told Al Jazeera that six air strikes targeted a number of locations in the country.
‘Dignified transfer’ of bodies
While the US strikes did not target any locations inside Iran, they are likely to increase concern about tensions in the Middle East spiralling from Israel’s more than three-month-old war on Gaza.
The strikes come hours after President Biden met with the families of the three troops who were killed on Sunday – identified as William Jerome Rivers, Kennedy Sanders and Breonna Moffett – as the service members’ remains arrived in the US.
Biden and his wife Jill visited the Dover air base in the US state of Delaware on Friday to honour the soldiers during the “dignified transfer” of their bodies.
US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CQ Brown, also attended – their presence highlighting the importance, as well as relative rarity, of returning dead service members in the wake of US exits from major foreign conflicts.
On Friday, Biden’s statement said the US “does not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world”.
But the US president added: “Let all those who might seek to do us harm know this: If you harm an American, we will respond.”
Earlier this week, when Biden was asked whether he holds Iran responsible for the drone attack, he said, “I do hold them responsible, in the sense that they’re supplying the weapons to the people who did it.”
US Republicans have been calling for a powerful response, including directly against Iran.
The Biden administration has suggested that the US response to the drone attack would be prolonged, not a single strike.
White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said on Thursday that it “will be a multi-tiered approach” over a period of time. “The first thing you see will not be the last thing you see,” he told reporters.