US military forces carried out on Sunday what a Pentagon official called “defensive” airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against Iranian-backed militias who were behind drone attacks on US personnel .
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement that the airstrikes targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one in Iraq. The facilities have been used by at least two militias, Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, Kirby said.
Kirby added that President Joe Biden, who authorized the strikes, “directed further military actions to disrupt and deter” attacks on US facilities and personnel in Iraq.
Kirby said the attacks were “ongoing”.
“We are in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government for the sole purpose of assisting the Iraqi security forces in their efforts to defeat ISIS,” Kirby said. “The United States has taken the necessary, appropriate and deliberate steps designed to limit the risk of escalation – but also to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message. “
The airstrikes come as the Biden administration plans to lift sanctions on Iran in a bid to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, which was negotiated under the Obama administration and aimed to dull the enrichment capacity of uranium from Iran.
Former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal three years ago, arguing it was tilted towards Iran. The Trump administration has also imposed damaging sanctions on the country.
US forces carried out airstrikes earlier this year against the same Iranian-backed militias that the Pentagon said were behind a rocket attack in northern Iraq. The attack killed a Filipino contractor working with a US-led military coalition and injured six people, including a Louisiana National Guard soldier and four US contractors.