The US has attacked an alleged weapons storage facility in eastern Syria it claims was being used by Tehran and Iran-backed groups.
In a statement on Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the “self-defence strike” was carried out by two of the air force’s F-15 fighters in response to recent attacks on US forces.
“The president has no higher priority than the safety of US personnel, and he directed today’s action to make clear that the United States will defend itself, its personnel and its interests,” the statement added.
Amid rising tensions since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on October 7, Washington has announced its troops and their allies have been attacked at least 40 times in Iraq and Syria by “Iran-backed forces”, with 45 servicemen suffering traumatic brain injuries or minor wounds.
Late last month, the Pentagon said the US struck two IRGC and Iran-linked facilities in Syria following attacks on US personnel.
In Wednesday’s statement, Austin urged an end to the attacks.
“The United States is fully prepared to take further necessary measures to protect our people and our facilities. We urge against any escalation,” he added.
The United States has 900 troops in Syria and 2,500 more in Iraq, on a mission to advise and assist local forces trying to prevent a resurgence of Daesh which in 2014 seized control of large swathes of both countries before it was eventually defeated.
The US has claimed its strikes are not connected with the Israel-Hamas war, amid concerns about a regional escalation of the crisis.
Washington has accused Iran-backed militias, but admitted there is no evidence to pin blame on Tehran’s leadership for ordering the strikes.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has denied that Iran had instructed groups in Syria and Iraq to target US troops in recent days.
He stated it was Washington — not Tehran — that was fanning the violence in the region.
“The US could face dire consequences in the Middle East if it continues to support Israel,” Amiradbollahian stressed, adding that Washington “is advising others to show self-restraint, but it has sided with Israel totally”.
“If the United States continues what it has been doing so far, then new fronts will be opened up against the United States.”
He also cautioned that the continued bloodshed in Gaza “will make the situation get out of control in the region.”
“The American side should decide – does it really want to escalate, intensify the war?” he asked.
The foreign minister went on to deny that Iran had instructed militant groups in Iraq and Syria to attack the US, insisting that they were acting on their own.
“They’re not receiving any orders from us, any instructions,” he noted.
Iran has repeatedly warned the United States against any act of mischief in the region.