The US has approved plans for a series of strikes on Iranian targets in Syria and Iraq, according to officials who spoke to the BBC’s US partner CBS News.
The strikes will take place over a number of days, officials said, and weather conditions will likely dictate when they are launched. The decision comes after a drone attack killed three US soldiers in Jordan, close to the Syrian border, on Sunday. The US blamed an Iranian-backed militia group for that attack.
That group, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, is believed to contain multiple militias that have been armed, funded and trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards force. Iran, however, has denied any role in the attack which injured 41 other US troops at the military base, known as Tower 22. Four US officials cited by Reuters have said that US intelligence believes that the drone used to attack the facility was manufactured by Iran.
At a news conference on Thursday, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said the US would “not tolerate attacks on American troops”. “We will take all necessary actions to defend the United States, our interests and our people,” he said. “We will respond where we choose, when we choose and how we choose.”
The officials who spoke to CBS News did not give an exact timeline on the potential strikes. They said the US military could launch them in bad weather, but preferred to have better visibility to reduce the risk of inadvertently hitting civilians. President Joe Biden has been under mounting pressure from Republican lawmakers, including some of Washington’s most hawkish voices on Iran, to strike targets on Iranian soil.
But while the US has repeatedly pledged to respond to the drone attack, Mr Biden and other defence officials have said Washington is not seeking a wider war with Iran or an escalation of tensions in the region. “That’s not what I’m looking for,” Mr Biden told reporters at the White House earlier this week.
The reportedly approved plans appear to keep the targeting to Iranian targets Syria and Iraq, rather than inside Iran. The US has been under pressure to respond to the drone attack, but the officials have said that Washington is not seeking a wider war with Iran or an escalation of tensions in the region. The reportedly approved plans appear to keep the targeting to Iranian targets Syria and Iraq, rather than inside Iran.