President Biden speaks during a signing ceremony for the Inflation Reduction Act at the White House.
The U.S. military conducted precision airstrikes in Syria against Iran-backed groups at President Biden’s direction on Tuesday, U.S. Central Command announced.
Col. Joe Buccino, U.S. Central Command’s communications director, said in a statement that the strikes targeted “infrastructure facilities” in the city of Deir ez-Zor, located in eastern Syria, used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
“Today’s strikes were necessary to protect and defend U.S. personnel,” said Buccino. “The United States took proportionate, deliberate action intended to limit the risk of escalation and minimize the risk of casualties.”
The strikes came days after Iran-backed groups fired rockets that landed in the vicinity of Syria’s Green Village base that houses U.S. troops.
None of the troops were harmed in the attack, but officials with Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve said a separate rocket attack on Jan. 5 by Iran-backed groups damaged the base and a mosque nearby.
“At President Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces conducted precision airstrikes in Deir ez-Zor Syria today,” Buccino said. “These precision strikes are intended to defend and protect U.S. forces from attacks like the ones on August 15 against U.S. personnel by Iran-backed groups.”
Buccino added that Biden gave the order for the strikes under his Article II authority to protect U.S. personnel.
“The United States does not seek conflict, but will continue to take necessary measures to protect and defend our people,” said Buccino.
A senior administration official said Biden asked for response options to the attack early last week, and the issue was discussed during an Oval Office meeting last Tuesday when Biden returned to Washington to sign the Inflation Reduction Act.
Biden ordered the strike after a briefing from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley on Monday, the official said.
The U.S. first sent ground troops to Syria in 2015 to combat the terrorist organization ISIS and back the Syrian Democratic Forces. Iran has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s civil war, at times leading to fighting between Iranian proxy forces and the U.S.
Meanwhile, Iran and the U.S. have engaged in indirect negotiations for more than a year to restore the Iran nuclear deal, which would limit Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for eased sanctions against the country.
The senior administration official said it remains to be seen whether a deal is achievable.
As one point of contention in the negotiations, Iran has desired the U.S. remove the IRGC — which U.S. Central Command said supported groups that conducted the Aug. 15 strike — from its list of terrorist organizations, but the Biden administration reportedly has been hesitant to do so as part of a potential deal.