US President Joe Biden has dismissed more aggressive bombing options against Iran-backed militants suggested by the Pentagon in order to eradicate any provocation of a large-scale conflict with Iran, The New York Times reported. In a statement on Sunday, Defense Secretary Lloyd J Austin noted that Biden has “no higher priority than the safety of US personnel”.
His statements came following fresh strikes on Iran-linked sites in eastern Syria on Sunday, following repeated attacks on US troops in Syria and Iraq. The US military carried out airstrikes on two locations, hitting a training site and a weapons facility, the Associated Press reported, citing Pentagon and US officials.
The latest US strikes were the third time in a little more than two weeks that the US has countered the Iran-backed Shite militia personnel because of a number of attacks on its troop bases stationed in Iraq and Syria.
Lloyd J Austin said that the two recently hit locations in eastern Syria were used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups, according to the Associated Press report.
The US Defense Secretary said that the fresh airstrikes were directed by Biden to make it “clear” that the US will “defend itself, its personnel, and its interests”.
Pentagon officials said that fewer than 12 Iran-backed militants were present at the bombed sites on Sunday, The New York Times report added. The officials further claimed that it was possible some of these militia personnel were killed or injured in the attack. However, US analysts were unable to offer a more precise casualty estimate, The New York Times report added.
The latest US airstrikes are the third since October 26 as the country tries to stop what has turned into a daily rain of drone and rocket attacks against American troops in Iraq and Syria. Iran and its supporters have repeatedly blamed the US for being equally responsibile for Israel’s assault in Gaza against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas – which is also backed by Iran.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi slammed the US on Saturday, alleging that the country was the “main perpetrator” and “accomplice” of Israel in its war against Hamas. Speaking at an emergency joint Arab-Islamic Summit hosted by Saudi Arabia to discuss the ongoing situation in Gaza, Raisi added that Gaza’s “war machine is in the hands of America” and claimed the US is stopping a ceasefire and “expanding the war” instead.
The US and its coalition troops have been attacked at least 40 times in Iraq and Syria by Iran-backed forces of late. At least 45 US troops have suffered traumatic brain injuries or minor wounds due to these attacks.
As many as 900 American troops are stationed in Syria, and 2,500 more are in neighbouring Iraq, on a mission to assist and advise regional forces to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State. The Islamic State had captured large swathes of both Syria and Iraq in 2014, but was defeated later.