It is yet another deadly episode in the escalation of tensions between Washington and Tehran. The United States struck Iranian-backed militias on the Iraqi-Syrian border on Sunday, killing at least five people. An intervention developed in response to the increase in drone attacks against their interests in Iraq.
“On the orders of President Biden, US military forces have carried out precision defensive airstrikes against facilities used by Iranian-backed militias in the Iraq-Syria border area,” the spokesperson said. Pentagon word John Kirby in a statement.
The strikes targeted operational centers and weapons depots located in two locations in Syria and one location in Iraq, according to the Pentagon. At least five pro-Iranian Iraqi fighters were killed and several others injured in the attacks, says the NGO Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based non-governmental organization, which draws on a vast network of sources in Syria. According to the official Syrian agency Sana, one child was killed and at least three people injured.
This is the second such operation against pro-Iranian militias in Syria by the United States since President Joe Biden came to power in January. . A strike in eastern Syria had already killed more than 20 fighters in February, according to OSDH. “The targets were selected because these installations are used by militias supported by Iran which are involved in attacks using drones against American personnel and installations in Iraq”, justified the Pentagon.
The new use of drones is a headache for the coalition because these flying devices can escape the defense batteries installed by the US military to defend its troops against rocket attacks. The recourse to this technique, on the model of the attacks carried out by the Yemeni Houthi rebels, pro-Iran, against Saudi Arabia, constitutes according to the experts the sign of an escalation in Iraq. Proof that Washington is worried about this new development, the American government announced in early June to offer up to three million dollars for information on these attacks.
40 attacks against the United States in 2021
Since the start of the year, more than forty attacks have targeted the interests of the United States in the country, where 2,500 American soldiers are deployed as part of an international coalition to fight against the jihadist group Islamic State. A drone “loaded with TNT”, according to the Kurdish authorities, thus crashed in April on the HQ of the coalition at the airport of Erbil (north). A “trapped drone” also crashed in May on the Iraqi air base of Ain al-Assad (west) sheltering Americans. And in early June, three drones targeted Baghdad airport, where American soldiers are also deployed, while five rockets were fired at an air base where American companies operate.
Washington systematically accuses pro-Iran factions of being responsible and responds to them accordingly. Sunday’s strikes constitute “a necessary, appropriate and deliberate action to limit the risk of escalation, but also to send a clear and unambiguous message of deterrence,” the Pentagon justified this time.
Iran is under a series of US economic sanctions because of its nuclear program, suspected by Washington of having military aims. The Islamic Republic is also accused by the United States of human rights violations and support for terrorism. The US strikes come as several countries are trying to bring the United States back into the 2015 Vienna nuclear deal with Iran, from which former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew his country in 2018.