Dec 26, 2023 - World

Biden orders strikes against Iran-backed militias after attack on U.S. troops

Iraqi security personnel in Baghdad on Tuesday. Photo: Ahmad Al-Ruyaye/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden ordered retaliatory airstrikes against Iranian-backed militia groups after three U.S. service members were wounded, one critically, in a Christmas Day drone attack in northern Iraq, the White House said Monday.

Why it matters: The fighting illustrates the broader effects of the Israel-Hamas war across the Middle East — and how U.S. military bases in Iraq and Syria have become targets, Reuters notes.

The big picture: Biden has tried to prevent the war from spiraling into a wider regional conflict that opens up new fronts of Israeli fighting — or draws the U.S. in directly, AP reports.

  • The administration has not responded to each attempted attack on American soldiers with military force, leading to criticism from Republicans.

What they're saying: "The Iranian-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups, under an umbrella of Iranian-backed militants, claimed credit for the attack," National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement Monday.

  • After a briefing on the attack, Biden "directed strikes against three locations utilized by Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups focused specifically on unmanned aerial drone activities," Watson said.
  • "The United States will act at a time and in a manner of our choosing should these attacks continue," she concluded.

Zoom out: U.S. forces have come under attack at least 100 times in Iraq and Syria, usually with rockets and drones, since the Israel-Hamas war began in October, per Reuters.

  • It's unclear if the latest U.S. retaliation will prevent future action against American troops, who are deployed in Iraq and Syria to help stop a resurgence of ISIS.

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