U.S. Strikes Against Iranian Targets Coming
The Secretary of Defense has outlined the parameters.
BBC (“US approves plan to strike Iranian targets in Syria and Iraq, officials say“):
The US has approved plans for a series of strikes on Iranian targets in Syria and Iraq, officials have told the BBC’s US partner CBS News.
The strikes will take place over a number of days, officials said, and weather conditions will likely dictate when they are launched.
It comes after a drone attack killed three US soldiers in Jordan, close to the Syrian border, on Sunday.
The US blamed an Iranian-backed militia group for that attack.
That group, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, is believed to contain multiple militias that have been armed, funded and trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards force. It has said it was responsible for Sunday’s strike.
Iran, meanwhile, has denied any role in the attack which injured 41 other US troops at the military base, known as Tower 22.
US officials have said that US intelligence believes that the drone used to attack the facility was manufactured by Iran – and is similar to the drones Iran has been sending to Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
At a news conference on Thursday, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin defended the delayed military response, saying: “We will respond where we choose, when we choose and how we choose.”
“I think everyone recognises the challenge associated with making sure that we hold the right people accountable,” he said, adding that there is no “set formula for doing this”.
“There are ways to manage this so it doesn’t spiral out of control. And that’s been our focus throughout,” Mr Austin continued.
The officials who spoke to CBS News did not give an exact timeline on the potential strikes. They said the US military could launch them in bad weather, but preferred to have better visibility to reduce the risk of inadvertently hitting civilians.
President Joe Biden has been under mounting pressure from Republican lawmakers, including some of Washington’s most hawkish voices on Iran, to strike targets on Iranian soil.
But while the US has repeatedly pledged to respond to the drone attack, Mr Biden and other defence officials have said Washington is not seeking a wider war with Iran or an escalation of tensions in the region.
“That’s not what I’m looking for,” Mr Biden told reporters at the White House earlier this week.
The reportedly approved plans appear to keep the targeting to Iranian targets Syria and Iraq, rather than inside Iran.
AP (“US hints large response to Iran-backed militias is imminent as Houthi rebels target another ship“):
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday it’s time to further disable Iran-backed militias that have struck at U.S. forces and ships in the Middle East and the U.S. is preparing to take significant action in response to the deaths of three U.S. service members in Jordan.
For days the U.S. has hinted strikes are imminent. While the threat of retaliation for Sunday’s deaths has driven some militant groups to say they were stopping hostilities, as late as Thursday Yemen’s Houthi rebels were still attacking vessels and fired a ballistic missile at a Liberian-flagged container ship in the Red Sea.
“At this point, it’s time to take away even more capability than we’ve taken in the past,” Austin said Thursday in his first press conference since he was hospitalized on Jan. 1 due to complications from prostate cancer treatment.
Previous U.S. strikes have not deterred the attacks. Since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out in October, Iranian-backed militant groups have struck U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria at least 166 times with rockets, missiles and one-way attack drones, drawing about a half-dozen U.S. counterstrikes on militant facilities in both countries. The U.S. military also has carried out airstrikes targeting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The U.S. has attributed the attack on Tower 22 in Jordan to the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias that includes the militant group Kataib Hezbollah.
While Iran has denied involvement, Austin said Thursday that “how much Iran knew or didn’t know, we don’t know. But it really doesn’t matter because Iran sponsors these groups.”
Austin said “without that facilitation, these kinds of things don’t happen.” He said the Pentagon is still looking at the forensics of the drone that struck Tower 22, a secretive base in northeastern Jordan that’s been crucial to the American presence in neighboring Syria.
“I don’t think the adversaries are of a ‘one and done’ mindset. And so they have a lot of capability. I have a lot more,” Austin said. “We’re going to do what’s necessary to protect our troops.”
While it’s good to know that our forthcoming response to Iran-sponsored attacks on US forces will be calibrated to avoid escalation—which, frankly, I had presumed—I’m baffled at holding press conferences to discuss forthcoming military action.