The U.S. military conducted airstrikes on three targets in Syria and Iraq that the Pentagon said were used by Iranian-backed militias in the area.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in an announcement Sunday that the selected targets were weapons storage and operational facilities used by the militias to mount unmanned aerial vehicle attacks against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq.
Several Iran-backed militia groups, including Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS), used these particular storage facilities, Kirby said.
“As demonstrated by this evening’s strikes, President Biden has been clear that he will act to protect U.S. personnel,” Kirby said. “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.”
Kirby said the U.S. “took necessary, appropriate, and deliberate action designed to limit the risk of escalation — but also to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message.”
The Pentagon said the U.S. acted in self-defense. The airstrikes were “both necessary to address the threat and appropriately limited in scope.”
In response to the airstrikes on Monday, Iran called on the U.S. to avoid “creating crisis” in the region, according to Reuters.
“Certainly what the United States is doing is disrupting security in the region, and one of the victims of this disruption will be the United States,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.
Sunday’s airstrikes mark the second such attack against similar facilities in and around Syria under the Biden administration. On Feb. 25, the U.S. military conducted airstrikes against targets in eastern Syria that were also used by Iran-backed militia groups involved in other attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq, according to the Pentagon.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., on Sunday issued a statement on the airstrikes expressing concern at the pace of attacks on U.S. personnel and the number of retaliatory strikes
“My concern is that the pace of activity directed at U.S. forces and the repeated retaliatory strikes against Iranian proxy forces are starting to look like what would qualify as a pattern of hostilities under the War Powers Act,” Murphy wrote. “Both the Constitution and the War Powers Act require the president to come to Congress for a war declaration under these circumstances.”
Murphy, who is the chairman of the U.S. Senate foreign relations subcommittee for the region, said he expects a briefing from the White House on the airstrikes Monday.