Biden orders airstrikes against Iran-backed groups in Syria following attacks near base holding US troops last week

Airstrikes by the US military targeted Iranian-backed groups in Deir ez-Zor in Syria, US Central Command said in a statement. The strikes targeted “infrastructure used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” CENTCOM spokesman Col. Joe Buccino said in the statement.

“Under the direction of President Biden, U.S. military forces today conducted precision airstrikes in Deir ez-Zor, Syria. These precision strikes are intended to defend and protect U.S. forces from attacks like those of the August 15 against US personnel by Iranian-backed groups,” he added. said, referring to last week’s attacks on the Green Village base near the Iraqi border. The incident caused no damage or injuries.

Bidenaccording to the statement, “directed these strikes pursuant to its authority under Article II to protect and defend U.S. personnel by disrupting or deterring attacks by Iranian-backed groups.”

Iran condemned the US airstrikes and denied any affiliation with the groups targeted there, in a statement quoting Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani. said.

“The US attack on Syrian infrastructure and people is a violation of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the statement said.

A senior administration official told CNN that Biden asked for response options early last week, and the issue was discussed during a national security meeting in the Oval Office when the president was in town. Washington to sign the Inflation Reduction Act on August 16. On Monday, Biden was briefed on the options by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, and he ordered the strike after that briefing, the official said.

Buccino said an initial assessment suggested no one was killed in the strikes, but independent activists and human rights groups claimed up to ten people were killed.

Activist group DeirEzzor24 said at least ten people were killed and three others injured. They said those killed and injured were “foreigners” and members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Opposition war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least six Syrian and foreign activists were killed as a result of the airstrikes.

The two organizations said the airstrikes targeted Ayyash camp run by the Fatimiyoun group of Shiite fighters from Afghanistan.

CNN cannot independently verify these claims.

Sensitive moment

The US airstrikes come at a critical time for US-Iranian relations as progress has been made in reviving the Iran nuclear deal, aimed at preventing Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. A senior administration official told CNN there was no connection between the strikes and efforts to revive the deal, saying the strikes were just a response to recent Iranian attacks on Iranian forces. Americans.

“Whether there is an agreement or not, the President’s commitment to protecting American personnel and addressing Iranian activities that endanger our people or our friends in the region is unwavering,” the President said. responsible. “The nuclear deal has nothing to do with our readiness and ability to defend our people and our interests.”

Yet Tuesday’s airstrikes seemed to send a clear signal that deal or no deal, the US will continue to respond to Iranian provocations.

State Department spokesman Ned Price told CNN’s New Day that reaching a renegotiated deal with Iran would allow the United States to “deal more effectively with whatever else we come across.” from Iran and its proxies and groups it supports in the region.”

“There would be no greater challenge facing the United States and our partners around the world than a nuclear-armed Iran,” Price said Wednesday. “The Iran deal is about one thing and one thing only, ensuring that Iran is once again permanently and verifiably barred from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Buccino told CNN that the United States had targeted a group of bunkers used for ammunition storage and logistical support by Iranian-backed groups in Syria. The U.S. military extensively monitored a total of 13 bunkers at the same compound, Buccino said, totaling more than 400 hours of surveillance.

The strike was intended to target 11 of the bunkers because the United States could not be certain the other two bunkers were empty of people, Buccino said.

But shortly before CENTCOM carried out the strike, the military signaled two more bunkers because of a small group of people nearby. In the end, Buccino said the army hit nine bunkers in the eastern compound. Syria.

The purpose of the strike was to destroy the bunkers, Buccino said.

The Iran-backed militia moved weapons and ammunition to new warehouses a kilometer away, fearing they were targeted last week. Mid-grade weapons, various types of missiles, launch pads and ammunition were moved overnight, according to DeirEzzor24.

Although the airstrike on the bunkers was a response to the August 15 attack, Buccino said the bunkers were not used by Iran-backed militias to carry out this particular attack.

The base attacked earlier this month is home to a “small number” of coalition forces, including US service members, an official previously said. Several of the rockets failed to launch and were picked up by US-led coalition forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces. And earlier last week, several drones were repelled in an attack near the At-Tanf base in southern Syria.

At the time of the strikes last week, the coalition did not say who was responsible for either attack. However, Iran-backed militias in the region have frequently targeted US troops in Syria and Iraq.

In January, the US military carried out strikes in Syria after indirect fire posed what a US-led coalition official called an “imminent threat” to troops near Green Village.

The United States maintains about 900 troops in Syria, widely split between the At-Tanf base and the oil fields in the east of the country.

This story has been updated with additional details.

CNN’s Mostafa Salem and Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.

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