The United States recently launched airstrikes on Iranian-backed militias in Syria and Iraq, reflecting the administration’s plan to prevent militants and Tehran from carrying out or supporting further attacks on American forces or facilities, rather than launching a military attack, American officials say.
The Washington Post, citing officials, says that US President Joe Biden’s decision, last Sunday, to launch airstrikes against Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria showed how the administration plans to deal with attacks on US forces and facilities in the region.
According to the officials, “the United States will respond forcefully even if no American military is killed or injured.”
“We have a responsibility to prove that attacking Americans has consequences, whether or not those attacks cause casualties,” a senior administration official told the newspaper. “If you attack us, we will respond.”
This message, which was conveyed to Iran through diplomatic channels, represents a shift in policy after the era of former President Donald Trump, according to the newspaper.
Under Trump, who had hoped to withdraw American forces from the Middle East, Washington drew a different red line: killing American personnel would lead to a U.S. military response.
Senior Biden administration officials believe the policy has done little to deter the wave of “non-lethal” missile attacks on US facilities in Iraq that increased dramatically in 2019 and 2020 after the Trump administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and imposed numerous sanctions on Tehran’s economy.
The new policy, designed to deter lethal and non-lethal attacks, raises questions about what will stop mutual strikes from getting out of control, and how such skirmishes advance the Biden administration’s ultimate goal of withdrawing US forces from the Middle East, according to the newspaper.
“We will respond, and in that response, we want to make sure, as much as possible, that we hit targets associated with attacks against us,” the newspaper quotes a senior US official.
The three US strikes carried out by Air Force planes, last Sunday, targeted weapons storage facilities used by the Hezbollah Brigades and Sayyid al-Shuhada Brigades, according to the US Department of Defense (Pentagon).
On the other hand, missiles were fired at US forces in Syria on Monday, apparently in response to US airstrikes. On Tuesday, a US military official said that about 34 missiles were used in the attack, but no casualties were reported.