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Iran Warns U.S. of Escalation After Strikes

(IRGC/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout)
(IRGC/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout)

Iran lambasted U.S. retaliatory strikes on Iran-backed militant resources and facilities in Iraq and Syria on Friday, warning that it could lead to significant escalation.

The attack “will have no result other than the escalation of tensions and instability in the region,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nasser Kanaani said Saturday in a statement. He added that it was a “strategic mistake” from the Biden Administration.

The attack was a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq and Syria, Kanaani said.

Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces reported 16 of its members had been killed, while 23 were killed Syria, Reuters reported. Iraq said civilians were also killed in the strikes, Al Jazeera reported.

And although the Biden Administration said it informed Baghdad before the strikes, the Iraqi government has repudiated the claim. They called it “an unfounded claim crafted to mislead international public opinion,” Iraqi government spokesman, Basem Al-Awadi, said, according to the Iraqi News Agency.

The attack “will push the security situation in Iraq and the region to the brink of the abyss,” the Iraqi government said.

Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said it has summoned David Burger, the U.S. chargé d’affaires to Baghdad, to protest the strikes.

The alarmed responses from the Iranian and Iraqi governments reveals the precarious balancing act the United States must maintain in the coming days in order to avoid further escalation in the region after hitting targets of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The retaliatory strikes, which the Biden Administration conducted as a response to the deadly Iran-backed attack on a U.S. outpost in Jordan that killed three American troops, are only expected to be the first in a series of responses, the White House said Friday.

“There will be additional responses. There will be additional action that we will take, all designed to put an end to these attacks and to take away capability by the IRGC,” John Kirby, White House National Security Council coordinator told reporters on a call Friday.

U.S. Launches Revenge Strikes in Iraq and Syria After Deadly Jordan Ambush

The White House told reporters on Friday the targets were chosen because they were believed to be connected to attacks on U.S. personnel. The Director of Operations of the Joint Staff Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims told reporters that the targets were holding locations for munitions that have been used against U.S. forces and those that helped provide command, control and intelligence collection to the strikes that hit Americans.

The retaliation came after months of Iranian-backed militants conducting hundreds of attacks on U.S. forces in the region. And though the Biden Administration killed a leader of an Iran-backed militant group last month and struck out at facilities linked to Kataib Hezbollah, the strikes this week mark a significant escalation in response.

It was not clear if either the Iranian or Iraqi responses in the region or the reported civilian casualties would alter the administration’s next steps. The White House, and State Department did not immediately return a request for comment. The Pentagon declined to comment.

U.S. officials said Friday that the Biden Administration is not seeking wider war with Iran. “The goal here is to get these attacks to stop. We are not looking for a war with Iran,” Kirby said.

The White House previously claimed that the attacks were chosen in order to avoid civilian casualties, Kirby said.

“These targets were carefully selected to avoid civilian casualties and based on clear, irrefutable evidence that they were connected to attacks on U.S. personnel in the region,” Kirby said, acknowledging that the Department of Defense as still int he early stages of assessing the damage.

Sims said that the United States hit “exactly” what it was intending to hit.

“The initial indications were that we hit exactly what we meant to hit with a number of secondary explosions associated with the ammunition and logistics locations,” Sims said.

The military struck over 85 targets with over 125 precision-guided munitions. The U.S. military struck seven different facilities overall, Sims told reporters in a call Friday.

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