Former Defense secretary: ‘What matters now’ are results of US airstrikes in Iraq, Syria

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper spoke about the recent strikes by the U.S. in Iraq and Syria with CNN’s Abby Phillip in a recent interview.

“I was pleased to see that in the statement by U.S. Central Command that they said they did attack Quds Force’s sites,” Esper said on “The Lead.”

The U.S. began airstrikes on groups supported by Iran in Syria and Iraq Friday, in retaliation for a recent attack on a base in Jordan that killed three U.S. service members.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said it started airstrikes Friday evening in Iraq and Syria against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force “and affiliated militia groups.”

“U.S. military forces struck more than 85 targets, with numerous aircraft to include long-range bombers flown from the United States,” CENTCOM said in a statement. “The airstrikes employed more than 125 precision munitions.”

Esper said “what matters now” is what the outcome of the strikes will be.

“We’ll have a better battle damage assessment tomorrow morning, their time,” Esper continued. “Once the night lifts, we can see what happened, and then what will be the responses by Iran and, or its militia groups.”

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said the strikes were meant to reduce capabilities, as well as send a message to Iran and groups it supports to halt attacking Americans.

“We believe that these targets fell into exactly that criteria,” he said. “And the goal here is to get these attacks to stop. We’re not looking for a war with Iran.”

An Iraqi government spokesperson accused the U.S. of violating international law and not being truthful about circumstances in relation to its retaliatory strikes.

“The American side then deliberately deceived and falsified the facts, by announcing prior coordination to commit this aggression, which is a false claim aimed at misleading international public opinion and disavowing legal responsibility for this rejected crime in accordance with all international laws,” Bassem Al-Awadi, Iraqi government spokesperson, said in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, Saturday.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.