The U.S. military launched airstrikes Friday against two positions in eastern Syria linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in retaliation for a series of drone and missile attacks on bases and personnel of the US in the region that began early last week, the Pentagon reported.
The US attacks show the determination of the Biden administration to maintain a delicate balance. The United States wants to hit Iran-backed groups suspected of attacking the United States to prevent future aggression, possibly provoked by Israel’s war against Hamas, while trying not to provoke a wider conflict.
No details were given about the specific targets.
According to the Pentagon, there have been at least 12 attacks on US bases and personnel in Iraq and another four in Syria since October 17. Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder said 21 members of the US military were injured in two drone strikes on Al Asad Air Base in Iraq and Al Tanf Barracks in Syria.
In a statement, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that “the precision self-defense strikes are a response to a series of ongoing, mostly deterred, attacks on US troops in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-backed militias that began on October 17.”
He said President Joe Biden ordered the attacks “to make it clear that the United States will not tolerate such attacks and will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests.” He added that the operation is separate and distinct from Israel’s war against Hamas.
The Biden administration has not accused Iran of having a direct role in the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel and has said so far that it appears that Tehran did not know about it beforehand. But the United States has noted that Iran has long supported Hamas and expressed concern that Iran and its proxies could turn the conflict into a wider war.
Austin said the United States is not looking for a wider conflict, but if proxy groups in Iran continue, the United States will not hesitate to take other measures to protect its forces.
According to the Pentagon, all US personnel injured in the militant attacks suffered minor injuries and have all returned to duty. Additionally, a contractor suffered a heart attack and died while seeking shelter from a possible drone attack.