The United States carried out a series of retaliatory military strikes on Friday against Iranian forces and the militias Iran backed, in a sharp escalation in the Middle East that the Biden administration had sought to avoid since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out nearly four months ago.
“This past Sunday, three American soldiers were killed in Jordan by a drone launched by militant groups backed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps,” President Biden said in a statement. “Our response began today.”
The strikes hit more than 85 targets at seven sites in Syria and Iraq, U.S. officials said, identifying them as command and control operations, intelligence centers, weapons facilities and bunkers used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force and affiliated militia groups. All were linked to specific attacks against U.S. troops in the region, according to John F. Kirby, a National Security Council spokesman, and were chosen to avoid civilian casualties.
The military action sought to reduce the operational capabilities of the targeted forces and to send them a message of deterrence. Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, which has devastated Gaza and inflamed the Middle East, Iran and its allied militias have launched more than 160 attacks on U.S. troops in the region and have also struck at commercial ships in the Red Sea.
The strikes used more than 125 precision-guided munitions, according to a statement by United States Central Command. The strikes took 30 minutes, officials said, and were largely conducted by two American B-1B bombers, which departed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, early Friday for a more than 6,000-mile flight. Using U.S.-based bombers allowed commanders in the region to keep their land- and carrier-based strike aircraft in reserve for follow-up strikes, one official said.