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US Bombs Syria Amid Escalating Fears of Wider Regional Conflagration

President Joe Biden directed airstrikes on two sites the Pentagon claims are used by Iranian forces.

President Joe Biden meets with meets with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and combatant commanders in the Cabinet Room of the White House on April 20, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. military early Friday carried out airstrikes on two sites in eastern Syria that the Pentagon claims are used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and allied groups, a move that came amid mounting fears that Israel’s ongoing, U.S.-backed assault on Gaza could spark a broader regional war in the Middle East.

The strikes were carried out at the direction of U.S. President Joe Biden — but without congressional authorization — in the wake of recent drone and rocket attacks on American forces stationed in Iraq and Syria.

U.S. officials have blamed Iran for the attacks, even while conceding they don’t have evidence that Iran ordered them. The attacks left more than 20 U.S. personnel with minor injuries. The Pentagon said one U.S. contractor “died from a cardiac incident while sheltering in place” during a drone attack.

The U.S. has around 900 troops in Syria and thousands in Iraq. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives voted down a bipartisan resolution that would have required the president to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria within six months.

Daniel DePetris, a fellow at the foreign policy think tank Defense Priorities, argued in response to the Pentagon’s action that “airstrikes or no airstrikes, rocket and drone attacks against U.S. positions in Syria and Iraq will continue until the U.S. draws down in those countries.”

“It’s as simple as that,” DePetris added, “and I’m not sure why so few are willing to admit it.”

Far from withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria and Iraq, the Biden administration is preparing to send hundreds more to the Middle East as Israel prepares to invade the Gaza Strip. Pentagon officials said Friday’s strikes were not coordinated with the Israeli military, which has also bombed Syria in recent days.

Biden has now ordered airstrikes in Syria on at least five separate occasions during his presidency.

“These narrowly tailored strikes in self-defense were intended solely to protect and defend U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria,” Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said in a statement. “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.”

U.S. officials said the Friday strikes targeted weapons and ammunition storage locations purportedly linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It’s not yet clear if anyone was killed.

The strikes were conducted as some hawkish U.S. lawmakers and organizations continued to agitate for direct military action against Iran following Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel.

“All roads lead to Iran. Their fingerprints are all over this attack,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a floor speech on Wednesday. There is no evidence Iran was directly involved in Hamas’ attack.

Earlier this week, dozens of Iranian human rights advocates condemned rising calls for military action against Iran, warning that such a step would damage “the legitimate struggle of the Iranian people for democracy and peace.”

“We ask all Iranians not to allow opportunists to tie the struggle of the Iranian people for democracy, freedom, and peace with warmongering and calling for a military attack on our country,” they said in a joint statement.

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