President Joe Biden ordered airstrikes Sunday on three Iran-backed militia facilities in Iraq and Syria after three months of drone and rocket attacks on facilities in Iraq housing U.S. and coalition personnel.
“At President Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces earlier this evening conducted defensive precision airstrikes against facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups in the Iraq-Syria border region,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. “The targets were selected because these facilities are utilized by Iran-backed militias that are engaged in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacks against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq.”
The U.S. strikes were carried out by F-15 and F-16 jets, a defense official told Military Times. They “targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one location in Iraq,” both of which lie close to the border between those countries,” Kirby said. “Several Iran-backed militia groups, including Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS), used these facilities.
Kirby said the airstrikes were justified under both international and U.S. law.
“As a matter of international law, the United States acted pursuant to its right of self-defense,” he said in his statement. “The strikes were both necessary to address the threat and appropriately limited in scope. As a matter of domestic law, the president took this action pursuant to his Article II authority to protect U.S. personnel in Iraq.”
Sunday’s U.S. airstrikes were a response to ongoing Iran-backed militia drone and rocket attacks against U.S. and coalition personnel in Iraq, Navy Cmdr. Jessica McNulty, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said.
“Iran-backed militias have conducted at least five one-way UAV attacks against facilities used by U.S. and coalition personnel in Iraq since April, as well as ongoing rocket attacks against U.S. and coalition forces,” she said.
The Sunday evening strike was at least the second time Biden has ordered retaliatory action against Iran-backed militias.