Pompeo Says US Airstrikes Against Iran-Backed Forces Were ‘Defensive Action’

Mairead McArdle

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday described several airstrikes the U.S. launched at an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia in Iraq and Syria over the weekend as a “defensive action” aimed at warding off Iranian aggression and protecting Americans.

“Well, it begins by an understanding that this was a defensive action designed to protect American forces and American citizens in Iraq, and it was aimed also at deterring Iran,” Pompeo told Fox News.

The U.S. launched several “precision defensive strikes” on five sites of the militia Kataeb Hezbollah, which the administration blames for a rocket attack that killed a U.S. defense contractor at a U.S. military compound in northern Iraq on Friday, the Pentagon announced Sunday.

“They took a strike at an American facility. President Trump’s been pretty darn patient, and he’s made clear at the same time that when Americans’ lives were at risk, we would respond, and that’s what the Department of Defense did yesterday,” Pompeo said, and the U.S. “will not stand for the Islamic Republic of Iran to take actions that put American men and women in jeopardy.”

“This was an Iranian-backed rogue militia acting to deny the Iraqi people their basic sovereignty,” the secretary of state charged, adding that Iranian leaders are “working to expand their terror campaign all around the world.”

Kataeb Hezbollah said the strikes resulted in the deaths of at least 25 members of the militia and denied responsibility for Friday’s deadly rocket attack, which also injured four U.S. contractors and two soldiers with Iraqi security forces.

“We have no alternative today other than confrontation and there is nothing that will prevent us from responding to this crime,” the militia threatened in a statement.

Iran-backed forces have launched multiple rockets at U.S. bases in recent weeks.

Iran condemned the airstrikes, accusing the Trump administration of committing acts of terrorism.

“U.S. military aggression against Iraqi soil and Iraqi forces is strongly condemned as a clear example of terrorism,” said Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi.

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