US carries out air strike on Iran-backed militia facilities in Syria

The strikes ordered by Biden seemed limited in scope, lowering chances of escalation

US President Joe Biden on Thursday ordered military airstrikes in eastern Syria against facilities belonging to Iran-backed militia, the Pentagon said. The airstrikes are a response to attacks against US targets in Iraq, on February 15, which resulted in five Americans being injured and killed a foreign contractor working for the US

The strikes ordered by Biden seemed limited in scope, lowering chances of escalation. The Biden administration chose to strike Syria and not Iraq, giving the Iraqi government a chance to investigate an attack on February 15 that wounded Americans.

A handful of militants were killed in the attacks carried out on Thursday, the Pentagon said.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the strikes took place “at President Biden’s direction,” but drew criticism from a Democratic lawmaker.

“The operation sends an unambiguous message; President Biden will act to protect American coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both Eastern Syria and Iraq,” Kirby told CNN. The Pentagon called the attack a “proportionate military response”. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said the targeted site was used by the same Iranian-backed Shia militias, that fired rockets at US targets, but wasn’t directly tied to the attacks on February 15.

The retaliation ordered by Biden is a signal that the US wanted to punish the militias, a US official said.

Relations between Iran and the US had soured ever since former president Donald Trump exited the 2015 nuclear deal in 2018. The two nations are now looking for a way to return to the nuclear deal.

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