The United States carried out airstrikes against two facilities used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran and its allies in eastern Syria on Sunday night, Pentagon officials informed, in response to ongoing rocket and drone attacks against American forces in Iraq and Syria.
F-15E fighter jets from the Air Force targeted multiple buildings in Abu Kamal used for training and storing weapons, along with a safe house in Mayadin that was being used as a command center.
The strikes occurred just four days after American warplanes attacked an arms depot in eastern Syria. According to Pentagon sources, these latest strikes, along with another on October 27, were intended to deter Iran and the militias it supports in Syria and Iraq, which the Biden administration accuses of the attacks.
President Biden has rejected more aggressive bombing options suggested by the Pentagon, fearing that it could provoke a wider conflict with Iran. However, the responses from the White House thus far have been so limited that some critics in Congress and air power advocates say they only invite more frequent and more dangerous attacks against U.S. troops in the region.
Pentagon and other administration officials dismissed that criticism on Sunday, stating that the American airstrikes have been in self-defense and proportionate to the attacks by Iran-backed militias.
“The safety of U.S. personnel is the president’s top priority, and he has directed today’s action to make it clear that the United States will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests,” said Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III in a statement while traveling in Asia.
Unlike the previous two sets of strikes, the Pentagon did not make senior officials available after Sunday’s military response to discuss details. Pentagon officials stated they were still analyzing the strikes and did not know if anyone on the ground was injured or killed.
On Saturday, the Pentagon announced that there had been at least 48 attacks against U.S. forces in Syria and Iraq since October 17, with at least 56 U.S. service members being injured. About half of them suffered traumatic brain injuries, and two had to be flown to Landstuhl military hospital in Germany for treatment.
The United States has 2,500 troops in Iraq and 900 in Syria, primarily to assist local forces in the fight against remnants of the Islamic State.
The United States has been relocating military assets to the Middle East since Hamas’s unexpected attack on Israel on October 7, attempting to prevent a regional war that could potentially involve American forces in conflict with Iranian proxies in Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria.
It has deployed one aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean near Israel, and another has recently left the Red Sea, on its way to the Arabian Sea. The Pentagon has also sent dozens of additional warplanes to the Persian Gulf region, as well as additional Patriot anti-missile batteries and other air defenses to several Gulf nations to protect U.S. troops and bases in the region.
These air defenses have, for the most part, been successful in intercepting threats to American military personnel so far. However, U.S. military officials state that soldiers have been fortunate that no one has been killed as attacks have escalated.
“It is evident that Iran and its proxy groups are escalating their attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria, and we have multiple options available to defend ourselves,” remarked Dana Stroul, the Pentagon’s top Middle East policy official, to a House committee last week.