Sunday's night's series of US airstrikes on Syria and Iraq were the second publicly disclosed military strikes of Biden's presidency, which were described as targeting Iran-backed militia's which had been targeting American troop positions with drone and rocket attacks.
The Associated Press overnight cited Iraqi militia officials to say that at least four militants were killed in the US operation along Syria's eastern border - the first strike of which hit a weapons depot inside Syria. Additionally one UK-based Mideast monitoring group said at least seven Iraqi fighters were killed.
US airstrikes on pro-Iranian militias in the Syria-Iraq border region. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/UQ01sjWKkE— Ali Özkök (@Ozkok_A) June 28, 2021
The military action was described by the Department of Defense as follows: "At President Biden's direction, U.S. military forces earlier this evening conducted defensive precision airstrikes against facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups in the Iraq-Syria border region," according to a late Sunday statement. And The Wall Street Journal described on Monday: "The Pentagon said operational and weapons-storage facilities had been struck near the Syria-Iraq border at three locations that it said had been used by the Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada militia groups."
The escalation has once again set off tensions with Baghdad - not to mention threatening to further complicate Iran nuclear talks in Vienna - at a moment much of Iraq's government is pressuring Western forces to finally be removed from Iraqi soil, given the 'anti-ISIS' mission has long appeared to have been completed. The Iraqi Army issued a blistering statement condemning the "blatant and unacceptable violation of Iraqi sovereignty and national security."
Meanwhile at least one US Congressman noted the glaring lack of war authorization or Congressional approval for the Biden-ordered strikes...
There’s no legal authorization for U.S. troops to be in Iraq or Syria. Bring them home and stop bombing people under the guise of self-defense. https://t.co/EYZipHURtK— Justin Amash (@justinamash) June 28, 2021
To be expected, Tehran also blasted the airstrikes as creating instability in the region, according to foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh on Monday. "Definitely, what the US is doing is disrupting the security of the region."
But most importantly in terms setting the stage for potential imminent escalation, a coalition of pro-Iranian Iraqi militias vowed revenge in a statement issued immediately afterward:
"We ... will avenge the blood of our righteous martyrs against the perpetrators of this heinous crime and with God’s help we will make the enemy taste the bitterness of revenge," they said.
When the US bombs a sovereign nation thousands of miles away & DoD calls it "defensive," I understand. That's their business. But why did so many news stories about the bombing repeat that word? Many "reporters" are stenographers who parrot propaganda without assessing it. https://t.co/zbdOnsv3l3— Stephen Kinzer (@stephenkinzer) June 28, 2021
Such airstrikes began growing commonplace during the last year of the Trump administration amid growing tit-for-tat attacks between Iranian-backed Iraqi militias. During 2020 the series of attacks nearly sucked Iran and the US into direct war, especially following the January assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani.