- The US launched airstrikes Thursday night against "Iranian-backed militant groups" in Syria.
- The Defense Department said the strikes were carried out at the direction of President Joe Biden.
- The strikes came after rocket attacks targeting US forces in Iraq.
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US President Joe Biden ordered the military to carry out airstrikes against the assets of "Iranian-backed militant groups" in Syria on Thursday evening, the Pentagon said in a statement.
The strikes come after militants last week fired rockets that hit an Iraqi airbase used by the US military. That attack killed a US military contractor and wounded nine others.
The Iranian government supports a number of militant groups in Iraq and Syria and has pledged continued retaliation for the January 2020 killing of its general, Qassim Suleimani. That assassination came after Iraqi militant groups, days earlier, had killed another US military contractor in a rocket attack.
Thursday's strikes, according to defense officials, were primarily aimed at the militants' "infrastructure," not necessarily their personnel.
"Specifically, the strikes destroyed multiple facilities located at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kait'ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kait'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS)," the Pentagon said. The groups have deployed in Syria to support the regime of Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Tehran.
"The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and Coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq."
The incident comes as the Biden administration is also seeking to engage Iran in diplomacy as part of an effort to restore the 2015 nuclear deal scuttled by former President Donald Trump. Last week, the US State Department said it would attend multiparty talks "to discuss a diplomatic way forward on Iran's nuclear program."
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