US, allies respond to Iranian 'provocations' with studied calm

US, allies respond to Iranian 'provocations' with studied calm

The United States on Thursday carried out an airstrike in Syria against a structure belonging to what it said were Iran-backed militia, two officials told Reuters, an apparent response to rocket attacks against USA targets in Iraq.

The US has launched airstrikes on eastern Syria - the first military action undertaken since Joe Biden became president.

"Biden's direction, U.S. military forces earlier this evening conducted airstrikes against infrastructure utilized by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria", the Pentagon said in a statement.

"(Biden and al-Kadhimi) discussed the recent rocket attacks against Iraqi and coalition personnel and agreed that those responsible for such attacks must be held fully to account", the White House said in a statement of the two leaders' call on Tuesday.

"We have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in eastern Syria and Iraq", he added.

Reporting on the breaking news, CNN's Erin Burnett noted that the airstrike was in response to "three separate rocket attacks in the past couple of weeks against American forces in Baghdad, in which a civilian contractor was killed, an American serviceman, along with eight other contractors [who] were wounded in another one of those attacks". The US has responded with airstrikes against Iranian-backed miitias.

Retaliatory U.S. military strikes have occurred a number of times in the past few years.

The frequency of attacks by Shiite militia groups against United States targets in Iraq diminished late past year ahead of Biden's inauguration, though now Iran is pressing America to return to Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal.

A little-known Shiite militant group calling itself Saraya Awliya al-Dam, Arabic for Guardians of Blood Brigade, claimed responsibility for the February 15 attack.

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In the week since Washington offered to talk with Tehran about reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran has curbed United Nations monitoring, threatened to boost uranium enrichment and its suspected proxies have twice rocketed Iraqi bases with USA soldiers.

On Monday, two rockets hit near the United States embassy in Baghdad, days after a volley hit an airbase further north where a U.S. military contractor is maintaining F-16 fighter-jets purchased from Washington.

One of the former officials said, "it is easier to send messages there as we're less exposed".

"We are confident that the target was being used by the same Shia militia that conducted the strikes" against American interests in Iraq, he said. "And intelligence shared with us says there are more to come".

Iraqi security forces inspect damage after a rocket attack earlier this month.

"The renewed attacks could be an attempt by those close to Iran to increase Tehran's leverage in light of looming talks with the US", Bassiri said.

A file photo of Iranian General Qassem Soleiman's funeral after he was killed in an air strike ordered by the Trump administration.

It followed three rocket attacks on facilities in Iraq used by USA and coalition forces fighting the Islamic State group.

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