US Strikes Killed At Least 39, Including "Many Civilians," As Iraq Warns Stability Is On "Brink Of The Abyss"

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, Feb 03, 2024 - 06:25 PM

Widespread reports say at least 39 were killed in the Friday US airstrikes on Iran-linked targets across Western Iraq and Eastern Syria, which used over 125 bombs and precision munitions, according to a Pentagon statement.

There are reportedly civilians among the dead. The Baghdad government on Saturday said that 16 Iraqis, among them civilians, were killed - while on the other side of the border the Syrian Defense Ministry confirmed that both militants and civilians were killed but without providing a figure. The Syrian military said that "many civilian and military martyrs" died. The anti-Assad monitoring group, UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that the Syria strikes killed 23 militia fighters. 

The official readout by US Central Command (CENTCOM) described that "The facilities that were struck included command and control operations centers, intelligence centers, rockets, and missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicle storages, and logistics and munition supply chain facilities of militia groups and their IRGC sponsors who facilitated attacks against U.S. and Coalition forces."

Destroyed building in al Qaim, Iraq, after US strikes. via Reuters

The strikes lasted for over 30 minutes, having begun at 4pm Eastern Time, and additionally utilized B-1B bombers which flew over 6,000 miles after departing from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, among other aerial assets. This was supposedly for the element of "surprise" - despite the White House taking nearly a week to respond.

On Saturday it has come to light that the Pentagon let Iraqi government officials know shortly before the strikes began. The Biden administration has come under fire especially from hawkish GOP Congress members over telegraphing the operation to the point that IRGC officers could vacate bases and military assets. According to new reporting in NBC:

Iraq did receive prior warning of American airstrikes, contrary to the claims of Iraqi government officials, a senior administration official told NBC News today.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani earlier described the White House’s assertion that Iraq had been notified of the United States’ intention to conduct airstrikes as “lies,” as the foreign ministry called in the top U.S. diplomat in Iraq to protest what they called the “blatant aggression” against Iraqi sovereignty.

But according to one administration official, the Iraqi government was given short-notice warning that the U.S. would strike. “It wasn’t a huge heads up,” they said, “but it is not accurate to say they weren’t informed.”

An official speaking to NBC further said that list of targets were tied directly Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a retaliatory response to the killing of three American soldiers on the Jordan-Syria border Sunday. Importantly, according to Al Jazeera, "Even though Washington said all its intended targets were supported by the Quds Force command of the IRGC, no Iranian personnel are believed to have been killed."

President Biden has said, "The United States does not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world." He added: "But let all those who might seek to do us harm know this: If you harm an American, we will respond." Iran and Iraq are now warning that US action is stoking instability. According to FT:

The Iraqi government said on Saturday that 16 people, including civilians, were killed in the US attacks, warning that they would “put security in Iraq and the region on the brink of the abyss”. 

But as journalist and geopolitical commentator Aaron Maté points out it was Washington which has kept Americans in harm's way to begin with, by refusing to finally and fully exit Iraq as the government and its people have urged, and by maintaining the oil and gas occupation of eastern Syria. Maté concludes that essentially Biden has sacrificed American troops and Mideast security for US-Israeli hegemony:

What remains undoubtedly clear is that Biden has put US troops in harm’s way and provoked a wider regional escalation due to his devotion not only to Israel’s mass murder campaign in Gaza, but broader regional US hegemony. And because the bipartisan US establishment is in lockstep behind that agenda, the only question at hand is what “level” of aggression to commit.

The US government is well aware that it has alternatives to enforcing the Israeli genocide of Gaza and the American military presence across the region.

According to the Times’ Baker, US officials “have said for months that they did not believe Iran wanted a direct war with the United States.” Instead, these officials acknowledge, “Iran has used its proxy forces to keep up the pressure on the United States and Israel as Israel continues to pound Hamas in Gaza.” By “pound Hamas,” Baker means Gaza’s civilian population, the main victims of the US-supplied armaments that regularly pound Gaza.

In Yemen, Biden understands that his strikes are failing to deter the Ansar Allah movement’s (aka the Houthis’) blockade of Red Sea ships in protest of the Gaza genocide. Days after the US strikes began, Biden was asked if the bombings are working. “Well, when you say, ‘working’ — are they stopping the Houthis? No,” Biden said. “Are they gonna continue? Yes.”

This means that likely this large-scale tit-for-tat will continue and could easily spiral toward direct US-Iran war, which would also draw in Israel, and perhaps Russia would have something to say as well, given its military presence in Syria.

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Below: the Biden administration's strikes have received mixed - but mostly positive - reaction from the generals. Here are a few initial reactions courtesy of Peter Tchir's Academy Securities...

“President Teddy Roosevelt famously said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” President Biden and Secretary of Defense Austin certainly did not speak softly in the run-up to today’s U.S. attacks in Iraq and Syria. We must now wait to see how much of its “big stick” the U.S. Central Command uses in the coming days. It took five days for the U.S. to conduct the retaliatory strikes, and the timing may be tied to today’s dignified transfer of our three U.S. service members. The strikes were focused on Iranian-backed Shia militia groups, and the timing certainly gave those groups (and any IRGC support personnel) time to evacuate the target areas. Iran continues supplying the weapons to the proxies that are used in these attacks against U.S. forces. If the administration is concerned with escalating to a hot war with Iran and does not want to attack Iran itself, they should at least put a strangle-hold on Iranian oil sales. President Biden must make this painful enough to Iran to get them to back their proxy forces off.” – General Robert Walsh

“These strikes included a significant number of targets and weapons used by the United States. Interesting that the B-1 was used because flying directly from the U.S. provides an additional layer of surprise. Hopefully this sends a message to Iran and the IRGC that it is not in their best interest to continue supporting attacks against U.S. forces. Hard to tell at this point what IRGC leadership personnel were targeted.” – General David Deptula

“The strikes were well coordinated against a set of targets focused on the IRGC Quds Force, the major trainer and supplier to the other proxies. The targets hit all facets of command and control, supply points, launch locations, and missile/UAV storage locations. We will see an analysis of battle damage and follow-up strikes to ensure that we achieved the desired effects. This included our full complement of capabilities such as aircraft launching from the U.S. directly to targets in the AOR. As expected, this was an increase in scale and scope, and a strike against the Iranian IRGC Quds Force, not just the proxies they support. This is more than just a single targeting effort; I am sure that there will be more in the next few days.” – General Frank Kearney