(Damascus) Syria and Iraq denounced on Saturday nighttime American strikes against elite Iranian forces and pro-Iranian groups in these two countries, in retaliation for the death of 3 American soldiers in an attack at the end of January.
Iran “strongly condemned” these strikes and denounced “a violation of the sovereignty of Syria and Iraq”.
At least 23 pro-Iranian fighters, including nine Syrians and six Iraqis, were killed in eastern Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH). In Iraq, 16 people, including civilians, were killed, the Iraqi government announced on Saturday.
The United States said the strikes were a response to the attack on January 28 on a base in Jordan, near the Syrian and Iraqi borders, which cost the lives of three American soldiers, an attack attributed by Washington to groups supported by Iran.
“Our response began today. It will continue according to the schedule and in the places that we decide,” said US President Joe Biden.
American reprisals contribute to “stoking the conflict in the Middle East in an extremely dangerous way,” the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reacted in a press release. The Iraqi government criticized a “violation of Iraqi sovereignty”.
“Last night’s attack is an adventurous action and another strategic error on the part of the Americans, which will only result in intensifying tensions and instability in the region,” he responded. alongside the spokesperson for Iranian diplomacy, Nasser Kanani.
The American military intervention on the night of Friday to Saturday lasted around 30 minutes and was “a success”, according to the White House, which once again assured that it did not want a “war” with Iran.
A total of 85 targets at seven different sites (four in Syria and three in Iraq) were targeted, said John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council.
These strikes resulted in “the death of a number of civilians and soldiers, injuries to others and significant damage,” according to the Syrian army.
“The occupation of certain parts of Syrian territory by American forces can no longer continue,” she added, affirming her “determination to liberate the entire Syrian territory from terrorism and occupation.”
Iraq, for its part, considered that the presence on its soil of an international anti-jihadist coalition led by Washington had “become a threat to the security and stability” of the country.
Iraqi diplomacy later announced that it was going to summon the American charge d’affaires in Baghdad to give him an “official letter of protest”.
Some 900 American soldiers are deployed in Syria and 2,500 in neighboring Iraq as part of the coalition created to fight the Islamic State group when the latter controlled entire swaths of Syrian and Iraqi territory.
The defeat of ISIS in Syria was declared in 2019 (and in Iraq in 2017), but the coalition remained in the country to fight against jihadist cells which continue to carry out attacks there.
The White House assured that the United States had “warned the Iraqi government before the strikes”, which Baghdad denied on Saturday.
The American army took action shortly after the solemn return to the United States of the bodies of the three killed American soldiers, attended by President Joe Biden.
Multiplication of attacks
Since mid-October, more than 165 drone strikes and rocket attacks have targeted American forces deployed with the anti-jihadist coalition in Iraq and Syria, but no American service member had been killed until the January 28 attack. .
Mostly claimed by a nebula of fighters from pro-Iranian groups who call themselves “Islamic Resistance in Iraq”, these attacks multiplied shortly after the start of the war in Gaza on October 7 between the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas and Israel, close ally of the United States.
The American operation targeted command and intelligence centers, as well as drone and missile storage infrastructure “which enabled attacks against American and coalition forces,” the Pentagon said.
“The United States does not want conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world. But let those who want to harm us know this well: if you touch an American, we will respond,” the American president warned in a press release.