US approves strikes over Iranian positions

The US has given the green light for a series of attacks on Iranian positions in Syria and Iraq, following a drone strike that killed three US soldiers in Jordan on Sunday.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Officials have informed CBS News, the BBC’s US partner, that the US has authorized a series of attacks on Iranian positions in Syria and Iraq. The officials said the attacks will be carried out over several days, depending on the weather conditions.

The authorization comes after a drone strike on Sunday killed three US soldiers in Jordan, near the Syrian border.

The US accused a militia group supported by Iran of carrying out that strike. The group, called the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, is thought to include various militias that have received weapons, funds and training from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards force. The group claimed responsibility for Sunday’s strike.

Iran, on the other hand, has rejected any involvement in the strike that wounded 41 other US troops at the military base, known as Tower 22. Reuters quoted four US officials who said that US intelligence believed that the drone that hit the facility was made by Iran.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at a press conference on Thursday that the US would “not accept attacks on American troops”.

He said: “We will do whatever is necessary to protect the United States, our interests and our people. We will act where we want, when we want and how we want.”

The officials who spoke to CBS News did not provide a precise timeline for the planned attacks. They said the US military could launch them in bad weather, but would rather have better visibility to avoid accidentally hitting civilians.

Republican lawmakers, including some of the most pro-war voices on Iran in Washington, have been pressuring President Joe Biden to attack targets inside Iran.

But while the US has vowed to respond to the drone strike, Biden and other defense officials have said that Washington does not want a broader war with Iran or a rise in tensions in the region.

Biden said to reporters at the White House earlier this week: “That’s not what I’m looking for.”

The plans that have been reportedly approved seem to limit the targeting to Iranian positions in Syria and Iraq, not in Iran.

Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on 7 October, several groups backed by Iran have stepped up attacks on US and Israeli-linked targets.

For example, the Houthis in Yemen, who are supported by Iran, have attacked ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, leading to strikes from the US and its allies.

A US defence official told CBS that a drone was shot down overnight in the Gulf of Aden, and that an unmanned sea drone was hit and destroyed in the Red Sea.

Reuters reported on Thursday, citing unnamed sources, that Iran had pulled out senior officials from Syria after a series of Israeli airstrikes, in an attempt to avoid being directly involved in a wider conflict in the region.

CNN reported this week, citing US officials, that there were indications that the Iranian government was growing more worried about the actions of its proxy groups in the region, who have launched more than 160 attacks on US forces since October.

The remains of the three US soldiers killed in the strike in Jordan are expected to be flown back to a Delaware Air Force base on Friday. The White House has said that President Biden will be there.

The soldiers have been identified as William Jerome Rivers, 46, Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, and Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23. All three were part of an army reserve unit based in Fort Moore, Georgia.

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