President Biden ordered airstrikes against Iran-backed militias in Syria on Thursday evening, in retaliation for an attack on the airport in Erbil, Iraq, that left a Filipino contractor dead and wounded a U.S. service member and multiple American contractors.
The strike was the first military action publicly ordered by Biden since he assumed office, targeting an unofficial border crossing manned by Iran-backed militias including Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada. It isn’t clear if any militia members were killed. Sabireen News, a pro-Palestinian Shia organization, reported that one person was killed but that militia members manning the crossing fled before the strikes, according to the SITE intelligence network.
Biden opted for a relatively less aggressive response to the Erbil attack, American officials told The New York Times.
“This proportionate military response was conducted together with diplomatic measures, including consultation with coalition partners,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. “The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and coalition personnel.”
Kirby added, “We have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq.”
Iran has attempted to retain its influence in eastern Syria after former President Trump ordered the killing of top general Qasem Soleimani in January 2020, The Wall Street Journal reported. The airstrikes come as the Biden administration attempts to restart talks to enter the Iran nuclear deal, which the U.S. abandoned in 2018.