AP Photo/Hussein Malla
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U.S. Forces Strike Iran-Backed Terrorists in Iraq After Christmas Attack Wounds Three Service Members

Three U.S. service members were wounded, one critically, in Iraq on Monday evening in what is only the latest attack on American troops in the Middle East by Iranian terror proxies. According to the White House, a kamikaze drone launched by Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups struck Erbil Air Base in Iraq early on Christmas morning. 

After being briefed on the attack, Biden requested options for an American response to the attack and reviewed those options in the afternoon. The White House said Biden then directed strikes on facilities used by the Iran-backed terrorists for their drone operations targeting American troops. 

By Sunday evening, the Pentagon reported that CENTCOM forces had conducted “necessary and proportionate strikes on three facilities used by Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups in Iraq,” saying the “precision strikes” were “intended to disrupt and degrade capabilities of the Iran-aligned militia groups directly responsible” for Sunday morning’s attack that wounded U.S. service members. 

Per CENTCOM, the “early assessments” following the retaliatory strikes indicate that its forces “destroyed the targeted facilities and likely killed a number of Kataib Hezbollah militants” and there were “no indications that any civilian lives were affected.”

“These strikes are intended to hold accountable those elements directly responsible for attacks on coalition forces in Iraq and Syria and degrade their ability to continue attacks.  We will always protect our forces,” said General Michael Erik Kurilla, U.S. Central Command Commander.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement that his “prayers are with the brave Americans who were injured” in the Christmas Day attack. Putting a finer point on the action, Biden National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson pledged the U.S. “will act at a time and in a manner of our choosing should these attacks continue.”

Watson and the Biden administration’s tough talk might mean more if the White House hadn’t largely sat idly by — save for a handful of counterstrikes that took out what were reported to be empty warehouses — as more than 100 attacks against U.S. troops stationed in Iraq and Syria were carried out by Iranian proxies since the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas terrorists. 

To work, deterrence needs to have backing and, while it’s good that Biden ordered attacks in response to the latest attack on Americans in the Middle East, just one stronger answer to Iranian-backed attacks on U.S. forces is likely not enough to stop the escalating violence by Tehran’s proxies. And as long as — in the words of Secretary Austin — Biden is only interested in ordering “proportionate” strikes, the attacks on Americans are unlikely to end.

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