The Biden administration on Friday afternoon ordered strikes against facilities in Iraq and Syria associated with Iran-backed militants responsible for the deaths of three U.S. soldiers in Jordan earlier this week, but said it does not want war with Iran.
The strikes targeted 85 targets at three facilities in Iraq and four in Syria, including command and control headquarters, ammunition storage, and other facilities.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on a call with reporters that the targets were “carefully chosen facilities that we knew were involved in used by the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] and these militant groups in attacks against US personnel.”
He also made it clear that the strikes were not intended to spark a conflict with Iran, who backs the groups that have targeted U.S. troops in the region over 160 times since October before killing three and injuring dozens this week.
“We do not seek a conflict with Iran. These targets were chosen as we said to degrade and disrupt the capabilities of the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] and the groups that they sponsor and support,” Kirby said.
“We believe that these targets fell into exactly that criteria. And the goal here is to get these attacks to stop. We are not looking for a war with Iran.”
“This wasn’t just a message-sending routine tonight. This was about degrading capability, taking away in a more robust way than we have in the past, taking away capabilities by the IRGC,” he added.
Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, director for operations for the Joint Staff, could not say whether any militants were killed, but said, “We made these strikes tonight with an idea that there would likely be casualties associated with people inside those facilities.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that it was the “start of our response.” He said in his statement:
Following the attack on U.S. and Coalition Forces in northeastern Jordan this past Sunday that killed three U.S. service members, at President Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces today conducted strikes on seven facilities, which included more than 85 targets in Iraq and Syria, that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and affiliated militias use to attack U.S. forces. This is the start of our response. The President has directed additional actions to hold the IRGC and affiliated militias accountable for their attacks on U.S. and Coalition Forces. These will unfold at times and places of our choosing. We do not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else, but the President and I will not tolerate attacks on American forces. We will take all necessary actions to defend the United States, our forces, and our interests.
The Biden administration had issued warnings that they would strike back for days, making it unclear whether leaders of the Iran-backed groups were able to take defensive measures.
Officials declined to say whether the Iran-backed groups had time to take defensive measures or harden targets.
“I won’t speak for the IRGC or the Iranian-allied militia groups in terms of what orders they gave their people to move around or to harden beforehand,” said Sims.