On Wednesday, the U.S. military conducted precision strikes against two Iranian bases in eastern Syria.
The strikes were in response to recent Iranian or Iranian-backed attacks against U.S. forces and facilities in the area.
The incident comes at an extremely volatile moment with the Israeli Defense Forces getting ready to launch a ground invasion of Gaza.
On Wednesday, a pair of F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets assigned to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) dropped precision-guided munitions against a weapons storage facility and an ammunition depot near the Syrian town of Bukamal.
“Iran wants to hide its hand and deny its role in these attacks against our forces. We will not let them. If attacks by Iran’s proxies against U.S. forces continue, we will not hesitate to take further necessary measures to protect our people,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a press release on Thursday.
Iran is behind more than 20 unsuccessful attacks against U.S. interests in the area.
“These narrowly tailored strikes in self-defense were intended solely to protect and defend U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria. They are separate and distinct from the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, and do not constitute a shift in our approach to the Israel-Hamas conflict. We continue to urge all state and non-state entities not to take action that would escalate into a broader regional conflict,” the Secretary of Defense stated.
As a result of the Iranian attacks, one American contractor died from a cardiac episode while trying to shelter and 21 U.S. troops and contractors have suffered minor injuries.
“The President has no higher priority than the safety of U.S. personnel, and he directed today’s action to make clear that the United States will not tolerate such attacks and will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests,” Austin said.
A Clear Message to Iran
The precision strikes are a clear message to Iran to back off and stop increasing the pressure in the Middle East.
“The United States does not seek conflict and has no intention nor desire to engage in further hostilities, but these Iranian-backed attacks against U.S. forces are unacceptable and must stop,” Austin stated.
In the days prior, the White House and Pentagon had warned Iran and its Revolutionary Guard Corps to stay back and not try anything funny against U.S. forces in the region. And there are considerable U.S. forces in the area. Besides the normal contingents in Syria and Iraq, the U.S. military has sent two carrier strike groups and 2,000 Marines in the Eastern Mediterranean in response to the Hamas attacks. So, Iran has plenty of targets to attack if it wants to.
With the conflict between Israel and Hamas in its early stages, the situation in the Levant is extremely volatile. A wrong move could spark a wider conflict.
A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from the Johns Hopkins University, an MA from the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and is pursuing a J.D. at Boston College Law School. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.
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