The Pentagon announced late on Sunday that President Joe Biden had directed the execution of “defensive precision airstrikes” on several facilities used by Iran-backed militias on the Iraq-Syria border region. Two facilities on the Syrian side of the border were struck, with the remaining facility targeted in Iraq. The Department of Defense has since released targeting pod footage of the airstrikes.
Press Secretary John Kirby stated that the facilities targeted were used by “several” Iran-backed militias, including Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS), to carry out drone attacks against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq. Stressing that the airstrikes were “necessary to address the threat” and “appropriately limited in scope”, he said:
“As demonstrated by this evening’s strikes, President Biden has been clear that he will act to protect U.S. personnel. Given the ongoing series of attacks by Iran-backed groups targeting U.S. interests in Iraq, the President directed further military action to disrupt and deter such attacks. We are in Iraq at the invitation of the Government of Iraq for the sole purpose of assisting the Iraqi Security Forces in their efforts to defeat ISIS. The United States took necessary, appropriate, and deliberate action designed to limit the risk of escalation – but also to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message.”
No further details were provided, although Pentagon officials with knowledge of the strikes told the New York Times that US Air Force F-15Es and F-16s dropping 500-pound and 2,000-pound satellite-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions destroyed the Iraqi drone launch and recovery facility, as well as the Syrian storage and logistics sites. Due to the airstrikes taking place at around 1AM local time, another official that spoke with Fox News said that he did not expect “a lot of casualties” from militiamen at the sites, although the Pentagon says that bomb damage assessment is ongoing. Unconfirmed claims from media outlets close to the militias claim 4 dead.
In a press statement noting that the airstrikes “appear to be a targeted and proportional response to a serious and specific threat”, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stated that “Congress looks forward to receiving and reviewing the formal notification of this operation under the War Powers Act and to receiving additional briefings from the Administration.”