US Begins Retaliatory Strikes In Iraq And Syria

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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The U.S. has begun retaliatory strikes on targets in Iraq and Syria after the deaths of three U.S. service members at the hands of Iran-backed militant groups, the White House and Pentagon confirmed.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) forces struck more than 85 targets with aircraft, including long-range bombers, hitting Iran’s paramilitary force and groups associated with it, the military said in a statement. Friday’s attacks on targets in Iraq and Syria are the first wave of retaliation for the 3 U.S. service members who died in a drone attack by the self-styled Islamic Resistance in Iran on Sunday, impacting a military base in Jordan.

“Our response began today.  It will continue at times and places of our choosing,” President Joe Biden said in an emailed statement.

“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,” CENTCOM said. “U.S. military forces struck more than 85 targets, with numerous aircraft to include long-range bombers flown from United States. (RELATED: Iran-Backed Militant Group Behind Attacks On US Troops Says Its Suspending Operations Ahead Of Potential Retaliation)

U.S. assets used more than 125 precision munitions and targeted Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) “command and control operations, centers, intelligence centers, rockets,” drone and vehicle storage sites and supply chain facilities belonging to the groups, CENTCOM said. The groups “facilitated attacks against U.S. and Coalition forces.”

President Joe Biden ordered the strikes in response to the attack that struck Tower 22 in Jordan, killing 3 U.S. Army Reserve soldiers and injuring more than 40, the White House statement said. Hours before strikes began, Biden attended a dignified transfer of the three service members killed in Jordan and met their families.

The attacks took place over the course of about 30 minutes, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said on a press call afterward. The purpose of the attacks was to sent a signal that strikes on U.S. troops need to stop and to degrade the groups’ capacity to continue threatening Americans.

Department of Defense (DOD) was still conducting an assessment of the battle damage and casualties, but Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, who heads the Joint Staff’s operations directorate, added that the military understood there would likely be casualties. CENTCOM waited for good weather to present so U.S. forces could achieve clear visuals on the selected targets, he said.

“If these responses began tonight, they’re not going to end tonight,” Kirby said.

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden attend the dignified transfer of three U.S. service members who were killed in a drone attack in Jordan last week.

— The Recount (@therecount) February 2, 2024

The U.S. has conducted retaliatory strikes several times since the dramatic uptick in Iran-backed attacks on bases hosting U.S. troops Iraq and Syria, which, until Sunday, had not caused fatalities but have wounded dozens of U.S. troops.

The administration has said it holds Iran accountable for the attacks on U.S. troops, although Iran has denied any association with the attack. Tehran funds the groups and provides them with weapons and training.

“The United States does not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world. But let all those who might seek to do us harm know this: if you harm an American, we will respond,” Biden said.

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