Biden orders U.S. airstrikes on Iran-backed militias in Iraq-Syria border region

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President Joe Biden directed airstrikes on Iran-backed militia groups in the Iraq-Syria border region in response to unmanned aerial vehicle attacks, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement Sunday.

Details: U.S. military forces conducted the "defensive precision airstrikes" against facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups in the region on Sunday evening, said Kirby, who stressed the U.S. strikes were legal and in self-defense.

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  • "The targets were selected because these facilities are utilized by Iran-backed militias that are engaged in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacks against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq," he added.

  • "Specifically, the U.S. strikes targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one location in Iraq, both of which lie close to the border between those countries. Several Iran-backed militia groups, including Kata'ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS), used these facilities."

Of note: Biden said in February when he directed U.S. military forces to strike Iran-backed militia groups that he wanted to warn the Iranian government that it "can't act with impunity."

Driving the news: Pentagon spokesperson Cmdr. Jessica McNulty said in an emailed statement that Iran-backed militias "have conducted at least five one-way UAV attacks against facilities used by U.S. and Coalition personnel in Iraq since April as well as ongoing rocket attacks against U.S. and Coalition forces."

  • McNulty said it's too early to assess whether there had been any casualties."The strikes were necessary, appropriate, and deliberate action designed to limit the risk of escalation," she added.

"Through these and other means, we seek to make clear to Iran and Iran-backed militia groups that there will be serious consequences if they continue to attack, or to arm, fund, and train militia groups that attack our people. We will take necessary and appropriate measures to defend U.S. personnel, partners, and allies in the region."

McNulty

The big picture: The airstrikes come at a time of heightened tension between the U.S. and Iran, as the two nations hold talks on returning Tehran to the 2015 nuclear deal.

What to watch: Senators will consider repealing the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq after the House backed the action earlier this month.

  • Biden declined to comment to reporters on the latest airstrikes after returning to the White House Sunday evening from a weekend at Camp David, telling reporters: "I'll talk to you tomorrow," CNN notes.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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