The United States carried out three airstrikes early Monday morning in Iraq and Syria against weapons storage facilities used by Iranian-backed militias that in recent weeks have conducted armed drone strikes against locations where the US military is, the Pentagon said Sunday.
“At President Biden’s direction, US military forces earlier this evening conducted defensive precision airstrikes against facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups in the Iraq-Syria border region,” the Pentagon spokesman, John F. Kirby, said in a statement.
Kirby said the facilities struck were used by Iranian-backed militias, including Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, to carry out drone strikes against places where Americans were located.
The strikes were the second time that President Joe Biden has ordered the use of force in the region. The United States carried out airstrikes in eastern Syria in late February against buildings belonging to what the Pentagon said were Iran-backed militias responsible for recent attacks against US and allied personnel in Iraq.
The United States is grappling with a rapidly evolving threat from Iranian proxies in Iraq after militia forces specialized in operating more sophisticated weaponry, including armed drones, have hit some of the most sensitive American targets in attacks that evaded US defenses.
At least five times since April, those militias have used small, explosive-laden drones that dive bomb and crash into their targets in late-night attacks on Iraqi bases — including those used by the CIA and US Special Operations units, according to US officials.
Iran — weakened by years of harsh economic sanctions — is using its proxy militias in Iraq to step up pressure on the United States and other world powers to negotiate an easing of those sanctions as part of a revival of the 2015 nuclear deal. Iraqi and US officials say Iran has devised the drone attacks to minimize casualties, hoping to avoid prompting US retaliation.