Iran condemns US air strikes in Iraq and Syria amid warning of ‘disastrous consequences’ for region

Iraqi prime minister’s office says Friday’s attacks killed 16 people, including civilians

Iran’s foreign ministry on Saturday condemned overnight US air strikes in Iraq and Syria as “violations of the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of the two countries.

The US military launched air strikes against more than 85 sites it said were used by Iranian-backed militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds force, in the opening salvo of retaliation for the drone strike that killed three US troops in Jordan last weekend.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani, in a statement, said the attacks represented “another adventurous and strategic mistake by the United States that will result only in increased tension in instability in the region”.

Sixteen people were killed in Iraq, among them civilians, and 25 injured in the overnight attacks, according to Iraqi prime minister’s Mohammed Shia al-Sudani’s office on Saturday.


In a statement, it condemned the strikes as a “new aggression against Iraq’s sovereignty” and denied that they were co-ordinated by the Baghdad government beforehand with Washington, calling such assertions “lies”.

The presence of the US-led military coalition in the region “has become a reason for threatening security and stability in Iraq and a justification for involving Iraq in regional and international conflicts”, the statement added.

Yahya Rassol, a spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister, warned of ‘disastrous consequences’ for the region, saying: ‘These air strikes 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 disastrous consequences.’

Before Friday’s attacks, President Joe Biden and other US leaders had been warning for days that America would strike back at the militias, and they made it clear it would not be just one hit but a “tiered response” over time.

“This afternoon, 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,” Mr Biden said in a statement on Friday. “Our response began today. It will continue at times and places of our choosing.”

“The United States does not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world. But let all those who might seek to do us harm know this: If you harm an American, we will respond.”

The strikes by manned and unmanned aircraft hit more than 85 targets, including command and control headquarters, intelligence centres, rockets and missiles, drone and ammunition storage sites and other facilities

Two Iraqi militia officials said three houses used as headquarters were targeted in Al-Qaim, Iraq, including a weapons storage area. An operations headquarters of the Popular Mobilisation Forces, a coalition of Iranian-backed militias, in Akashat, Iraq, and weapons stores were targeted.

The assault came just hours after Mr Biden and top defence leaders joined grieving families as the remains of the three Army Reserve soldiers were returned to the US at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

It was unclear what the next steps will be, or whether the days of US warnings have sent militia members into hiding, making it more difficult to detect and strike them. But it was evident that the recent statement released by Kataeb Hizbullah, one of the main Iran-backed militias, saying it was suspending attacks on American troops, had no impact on the administration’s plans.

The US strikes appeared to stop short of directly targeting Iran or senior leaders of the Revolutionary Guard Quds force within its borders.

Iran has denied it was behind the Jordan attack.

In a statement this week, Kataib Hizbullah announced “the suspension of military and security operations against the occupation forces in order to prevent embarrassment to the Iraqi government”.

But Harakat al-Nujaba, one of the other major Iran-backed groups, vowed on Friday to continue military operations against US troops.

The US has blamed the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a broad coalition of Iran-backed militias, for the deadly attack in Jordan, but has not yet narrowed it down to a specific group. Kataeb Hizbullah is, however, a top suspect.

Some of the militias have been a threat to US bases for years, but the groups intensified their assaults in the wake of Israel’s war with Hamas following the October 7th attack on Israel.

The war has led to the deaths of thousands of civilians in Gaza and spilt across four other countries now. Iran-backed militia groups throughout the region have used the conflict to justify striking Israeli or US interests, including threatening civilian commercial ships and US warships with drones or missiles in almost daily exchanges.

On Thursday, US defence secretary Lloyd Austin said that “this is a dangerous moment in the Middle East”, adding “we will take all necessary actions to defend the United States, our interests and our people. And we will respond when we choose, where we choose and how we choose. At this point, it’s time to take away even more capability than we’ve taken in the past.”

As of Tuesday, Iran-backed militia groups had launched 166 attacks on US military installations since October 18th, including 67 in Iraq, 98 in Syria and now one in Jordan, according to a US military official. The last attack was on January 29th at al-Asad airbase in Iraq, and there were no injuries or damage.

The US, meanwhile, has bolstered defences at the base in Jordan that was attacked by the ran-backed militants on Sunday, according to a US official. The Israeli military said its Arrow defence system intercepted a missile that approached the country from the Red Sea, raising suspicion it was launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels. The rebels did not immediately claim responsibility.

A US official also said the military had taken additional self-defence strikes inside Yemen on Friday against Houthi military targets deemed an imminent threat. Al-Masirah, a Houthi-run satellite news channel, said that British and American forces conducted three strikes in the northern Yemeni province of Hajjah, a Houthi stronghold.

While previous US responses in Iraq and Syria have been more limited, the attack on Tower 22, as the Jordan outpost is known, and the deaths of the three service members has crossed a line, the official said. That drone attack, which also injured more than 40 service members, largely Army National Guard, was the first to result in US combat deaths from the Iran-backed militias since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out.

Tower 22 houses about 350 US troops and sits near the demilitarised zone on the border between Jordan and Syria. The Iraqi border is only six miles away. – Reuters, additional reporting by AP

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