President Joe Biden directed airstrikes on Iran-backed militia groups in the Iraq-Syria border region in response to unmanned aerial vehicle attacks, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement Sunday.
Driving the news: U.S. military forces conducted the "defensive precision airstrikes" against facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups in the region on Sunday evening, said Kirby, who stressed the U.S. strikes were legal and in self-defense.
- "The targets were selected because these facilities are utilized by Iran-backed militias that are engaged in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacks against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq," he added.
- "Specifically, the U.S. strikes targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one location in Iraq, both of which lie close to the border between those countries. Several Iran-backed militia groups, including Kata'ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS), used these facilities."
Of note: Biden said in February when he directed U.S. military forces to strike Iran-backed militia groups that he wanted to warn the Iranian government that it "can't act with impunity."
- Kirby said in his statement that Biden "has been clear that he will act to protect U.S. personnel."
- "Given the ongoing series of attacks by Iran-backed groups targeting U.S. interests in Iraq, the President directed further military action to disrupt and deter such attacks," Kirby added.
The big picture: The airstrikes come at a time of heightened tension between the U.S. and Iran, as the two nations hold talks on returning Tehran to the 2015 nuclear deal.
- Iran's hardline President-elect Ebrahim Raisi last week ruled out meeting with President Biden.
- Biden declined to comment to reporters on the latest airstrikes after returning to the White House Sunday evening from a weekend at Camp David, saying: "I'll talk to you tomorrow," CNN notes.
Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.