The United States carried out strikes on Thursday against two facilities used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and “associated groups” in eastern Syria, as announced by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, as the Iranian army conducts massive maneuvers amid rising regional tensions linked to the war in Gaza.
The U.S. Department of Defense (the Pentagon) announced these strikes after President Joe Biden sent a message to Iran‘s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warning him that any attack on U.S. forces threatens to expand the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.
White House spokesperson John Kirby said, “A direct message was sent. I won’t go any further than that.” However, the U.S. side denied that the strikes were related to the escalation in the Gaza Strip and the ongoing war between Israel and the Hamas movement.
Secretary Austin said in a statement that “these precise self-defense strikes are in response to a series of ongoing, mostly unsuccessful attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iran-backed militias that began on October 17th.”
According to the Pentagon, an American citizen died of a heart attack while taking cover during one of these attacks, and 21 others were lightly wounded but have since returned to work.
Austin stated that Biden ordered these strikes “to make it clear that the United States will not tolerate such attacks and will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests.”
Iran, in turn, sent messages to Washington and the West through maneuvers that it intends to conduct on Friday.
According to the Iranian agency Mehr, “infantry units, armored units, missiles, artillery, air forces, drones, engineering units, air mobile units, electronic warfare, modern warfare, and cyber warfare will participate in the maneuvers.
It emphasized that the maneuver will take place for two days in the general area of Nasrabad in Isfahan Province “under the supervision of experts, evaluators, and armed forces leaders, with the aim of dealing with threats and upcoming changes in the combat organization of the army, according to pre-established plans.”
Iran had previously warned of the possibility of expanding the war in Gaza, while Washington sent aircraft carriers to the region and supplied Israel with weapons.
Earlier on Thursday, the Pentagon announced that U.S. forces and the international coalition led by Washington to combat jihadists in Syria and Iraq have been subjected to at least 16 attacks since the beginning of this month, blaming “Iran-backed militias” for these attacks.
Pentagon spokesperson General Pat Ryder told reporters that since October 17, “U.S. forces and coalition forces have been attacked 12 times in Iraq and four times in Syria,” explaining that these attacks were carried out by drones and missiles.
Khamenei, Iran‘s highest authority, accused the United States on Wednesday of “managing the crime in Gaza,” where Israel has been carrying out airstrikes against Hamas since the movement’s attack on October 7th.