From retaliation to escalation: decoding the US Strikes in Iraq and Syria

From retaliation to escalation: decoding the US Strikes in Iraq and Syria

Shafaq News/ After days of warnings to retaliate, the United States struck Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and affiliated groups in Iraq and Syria.

The new targeting came after the drone attack that killed three US soldiers and injured more than 40 others in northeastern Jordan near the Syrian border last weekend.

The US position

"At my direction, US military forces struck targets at facilities in Iraq and Syria that the IRGC and affiliated militia use to attack US forces," US President Joe Biden said in a statement.

"Our response began today. It will continue at times and places of our choosing," he added.

"This is the start of our response." Said US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

In a statement, US Army Central Command (CENTCOM) reported that its forces "struck more than 85 targets, with numerous aircraft to include long-range bombers flown from United States. The airstrikes employed more than 125 precision munitions."

Furthermore, Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, the director of the Joint Staff, explained that the strikes took place over about 30 minutes, and three of the sites struck were in Iraq, and four were in Syria.

Meanwhile, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the targets "were carefully selected to avoid civilian casualties and based on clear, irrefutable evidence that they were connected to attacks on US personnel in the region." He declined to detail what that evidence was.

Kirby said the Iraqi government was notified about the strikes ahead of time.

In Iraq

A statement by the Popular Mobilization Forces said that 16 members of the PMF's Al-Tofuf Brigade (also known as Al-Atba Al-Husseiniya) were killed and 25 were injured "as a result of the cowardly American aggression on the Al-Anbar Operations Sector."

Despite the US Administration's announcement that the Iraqi authorities were notified about the strikes, Iraq condemned these attacks and did not confirm the American allegations.

Iraqi government spokesman Bassem Al-Awadi denied any "prior coordination" between Baghdad and Washington in this regard.

Al-Awadi stated, "The American administration committed a new aggression against the sovereignty of Iraq," noting that the strikes caused casualties, injuries, and damage to residential buildings and property. He accused the US of "falsifying facts by claiming prior coordination, emphasizing that this aggression jeopardizes security in Iraq and the region."

The spokesman of the Commande-in Chief of the armed forces, Yahya Rasool, said the US airstrikes constitute a "violation of Iraqi sovereignty, undermine the efforts of the Iraqi government, and pose a threat that could lead Iraq and the region into dire consequences. The outcomes will severely affect the security and stability in Iraq and the surrounding region."

Moreover, Military sources told Shafaq News Agency that the strikes targeted sites of Kataib Hezbollah (Hezbollah Brigades) in the Al-Sikak area within the Al-Qaim District of Al-Anbar Governorate, western Iraq, close to the Iraqi-Syrian border.

Notably, Kataib Hezbollah declared last Tuesday a halt to its operations against the US forces to "avoid causing embarrassment to the Iraqi government."

The sources explained that the attacks destroyed four military sites of the Brigades, killed two civilians, and injured five others.

The two civilians were identified as Muhammad Shehadha Daki Al-Rawi and Sattar Al-Jughaifi.

"the situation in the area was like a war." One source said.

In Syria

Consequently, the Syrian Ministry of Defense announced on Saturday that there were civilian and military casualties due to the US bombing targeting several towns and sites.

In a statement, the ministry claimed that the area targeted by the US attacks is the same area where the "Syrian army is combating ISIS remnants."

The statement alleges that "the United States and its military forces are involved and allied with ISIS, aiming to revive it as a field arm, both in Syria and Iraq."

The ministry considered the "aggression as an attempt to weaken the Syrian army's ability to combat terrorism."

In the same context, the Syrian State News Agency (SANA) reported that sounds of explosions were heard in Deir Ezzor and its countryside as power went blackout after "the aggression that targeted many sites in Bou Kamal, Mayadeen, and the surroundings along the Syrian-Iraqi borders."

SANA did not report if the attacks resulted in casualties. However, The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 18 militants were killed.

Iran vs United States in the Middle East

Nevertheless, with the US's escalating speech and retaliation, the Pentagon pointed out it does not want war with Iran.

"We do not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else, but the president and I will not tolerate attacks on American forces," US Secretary Austin said.

On Friday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said that Iran would not start a war but would "respond strongly" to anyone who tried to "bully" it.

Last Wednesday, an informed source revealed that Ismail Qaani, the commander of Iran's Quds Force in the Revolutionary Guard, visited Baghdad, engaging in extensive meetings with faction leaders operating under the "Islamic Resistance in Iraq (IRI)."

IRI term commonly refers to Tehran's military allies in Iraq, including powerful groups such as Kataeb Hezbollah and Harakat Al-Nujabaa.

The source said that during an unannounced visit to Baghdad, "Qaani met with some faction leaders to alleviate the security situation and discourage any further military escalation against the Americans."

Iran repeatedly denied involvement in the attacks against the US-led coalition in Syria and Iraq, stressing that the Axis of Resistance "takes its own decision" but confirming that any American escalation in the region could lead to a "massive war."

The "Axis of Resistance" is a term encompassing Iran-aligned groups across the Middle East, including Lebanon's Hezbollah, Yemen's Houthis, and Palestinian factions. These groups share a common political and military alignment with Iran and often emphasize their hostility toward the United States and Israel.

What is next?

Different scenarios might result after the US strikes in Iraq and Syria. The event may lead to retaliatory actions, encouraging subsequent destabilization of the fragile Middle East.

The attacks could also intensify the strains and possibly damage the diplomatic relationship between the United States and Iraq, particularly after Baghdad's stance to end the US-led Coalition presence in the nation.

In conclusion, whatever the consequences would be, the whole conflict is still related to the Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip, which killed more than 30,000 Palestinians and displaced hundreds of thousands.

While Washington does not want any escalation, Israel rejects any negotiations to end the war that could become broader if Tel Aviv takes any aggressive steps against Lebanon's Hezbollah, one of the most powerful military Movements in the Middle East.

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