US launches retaliatory airstrikes as Biden vows ‘If you harm an American, we will respond’

President Joe Biden on Friday ordered retaliatory strikes against the Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria that have been attacking American forces.

He announced the strikes after attending the transfer of the bodies of the three Army Reserve soldiers who were killed during a strike by Iran-backed militias last weekend on a U.S. base in Jordan.

“This afternoon, at my direction, U.S. military forces struck targets at facilities in Iraq and Syria that the IRGC and affiliated militia use to attack U.S. forces,” he said. “Our response began today. It will continue at times and places of our choosing.”

“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,” he added.

In a statement of his own, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin echoed the president’s insistence that this is just the beginning.

This is the start of our response,” he said. “The president has directed additional actions to hold the IRGC and affiliated militias accountable for their attacks on U.S. and Coalition Forces. These will unfold at times and places of our choosing.”

“We do not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else, but the President and I will not tolerate attacks on American forces. We will take all necessary actions to defend the United States, our forces, and our interests,” he added.

During an on-the-record press call late Friday, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby revealed that “U.S. military forces struck more than 85 targets at seven facilities utilized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the militant groups that they sponsor.”

“Numerous aircraft, including B-1 bombers, dispatched from the United States were involved in this operation, firing more than 125 precision-guided munitions over the course of about 30 minutes,” he said.

“Target facilities included command and control centers, as well as headquarters buildings and intelligence centers; rocket, missile, and drone storage facilities; and logistics ammunition supply chain facilities,” he added.

Kirby also stressed that the military’s “targets were carefully selected to avoid civilian casualties and based on clear, irrefutable evidence that they were connected to attacks on U.S. personnel in the region.”

But in responding to the strikes, the Iraqi and Syrian governments both accused the U.S. of killing civilians.

“(The US) launched a blatant air aggression against a number of sites and towns in the eastern region of Syria, and near the Syrian-Iraqi border, which led to the martyrdom of a number of civilians and soldiers, the injury of others, and the infliction of significant damage to public and private property,” the Syrian Ministry of Defense said in a statement, according to CNN.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani’s office likewise said that at least 16 civilians were killed and 25 injured, according to The Times of Israel.

Al-Sudani’s office also condemned the strikes as a “new aggression against Iraq’s sovereignty” and denied that the U.S. government had coordinated the strikes with them beforehand.

The presence of U.S. forces in the region “has become a reason for threatening security and stability in Iraq and a justification for involving Iraq in regional and international conflicts,” they added.

Yahya Rasool, a spokesperson for Iraq’s Armed Forces, also decried the strikes, describing them as a “violation of Iraqi sovereignty.”

“The city of Al-Qaim and the Iraqi border areas are being subjected to airstrikes by US aircraft, at a time when Iraq is striving hard to ensure the stability of the region,” he said.

“These strikes are considered a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and undermine the efforts of the Iraqi government, posing a threat that could drag Iraq and the region into undesirable consequences. The outcomes will be dire for the security and stability in Iraq and the region,” he added.

Vivek Saxena

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