The US military on Sunday carried out air strikes against Iran-backed militia in Iraq and Syria, in response to drone attacks by the militia against US personnel and facilities in Iraq, the Pentagon said.
The strikes targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one location in Iraq, the Pentagon said.
“As demonstrated by this evening’s strikes, President Biden has been clear that he will act to protect US personnel,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
The strikes came even as Biden's administration is looking to potentially revive a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. The strikes appear to show Biden's efforts to compartmentalize defensive strikes to protect American personnel, while simultaneously engaging Tehran in diplomacy.
His critics say Iran cannot be trusted and point to the drone attacks as further evidence that Iran and its proxies will never accept a U.S. military presence in Iraq or Syria.
Biden and the White House declined comment on the strikes on Sunday.
US officials believe Iran is behind a ramp-up in drone attacks and periodic rocket fire against US personnel and facilities in Iraq, where the US military has been helping Baghdad combat the remnants of ISIS.
Two US officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said Iran-backed militias carried out at least five drone attacks against facilities used by US and coalition personnel in Iraq since April.
The Pentagon said the facilities targeted were used by Iran-backed militia including Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada.
One of the facilities targeted was used to launch and recover the drones, a defense official said.
The US military carried out strikes with F-15 and F-16 aircraft, officials said, adding the pilots made it back from the mission safely.
"We assess each strike hit the intended targets," one of the officials told Reuters.
Iraq's government is struggling to deal with militias ideologically aligned with Iran which are accused of rocket fire against US forces and of involvement in killing peaceful pro-democracy activists.
Earlier in June, Iraq released Iran-aligned militia commander Qasim Muslih, who was arrested in May on terrorism-related charges, after authorities found insufficient evidence against him.