US retaliatory airstrikes escalate regional tensions

US aircraft carrier credit: Reuters
US aircraft carrier credit: Reuters

The US has carried out attacks on more than 85 targets of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and affiliated pro-Iranian militias in Iraq and Syria.

US President Joe Biden yesterday directed military forces to carry out large-scale strikes against Iranian and pro-Iranian targets in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. These attacks raise many questions about the targets and whether Iran will be drawn into a war.

Where were the attacks conducted?

The US carried out air strikes against more than 85 targets of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and affiliated pro-Iranian militias in Iraq and Syria, in which 23 people were killed in Syria and 16 in Iraq. In addition, the force for protecting shipping in the Red Sea, which includes the US, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Bahrain attacked 36 targets of the Houthis rebels including underground weapons stores dumps, bases, missile launchers, and drone storage and operational facilities, radar and helicopters.

The attacks were designed to hit the bases and storage centers for missiles and aircraft, The focus of the attacks were the Qa'im region of Iraq and the Bukamal region of Syria, the border regions between Iraq and Syria, through which the revolutionary guards convey weapons onto Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Imam Ali strategic base is in Bukamal, which according to foreign reports, Israel has attacked many times.

How did the US carry out the attacks?

The US Air Force used many aircraft but most notably B-1 strategic bombers, which have an especially large range of 12,000 kilometers.

What was the reason for the attacks?

Firstly, US Forces have been attacked more than 160 times in Iraq, Syria and Jordan, since the outbreak of Israel's war with Hamas. There are 2,500 US combat troops in Iraq and 900 in Syria. Washington decided in most cases not to respond, but after three US soldiers were killed in Jordan last week, Biden felt obliged to retaliate against the pro-Iranian militias, despite the dangers arising from active involvement on such a scale in the war in the Middle East.

Attacks by the Houthis continue and merchant ships are still prevented from passing through the Bab al-Mandab strait. The Americans are trying to use measured strikes to cause damage to the Houthis that would force them to halt their attacks. However, the strikes are designed not to provoke the Houthis into resuming the civil war in Yemen, and drawing Saudi Arabia back into the conflict, at a time when they are striving to bring about normalization between Israel and the Saudis before the US elections.

What are the dangers and how tangible are they?

The first danger is a direct military confrontation between Iran and the US. However, this scenario is less likely at the current stage for two reasons: first and foremost, Biden wants to keep the conflict on as low-intensity as possible, in efforts to avoid a regional war with US involvement in election year. The second reason is that the series of attacks in Syria has led to the withdrawal of Iranian officers from Syria, due to the fear that they would be eliminated. The unusual step indicates how much Iran fears direct involvement in the war.

The second danger is related to US targets worldwide, and not necessarily in the Middle East. The Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards led by Esmail Qaani are deployed all over the world, including targets where there are US interests, such as Africa and Latin America. Iran may take advantage of its relations, for example, with Venezuela, so that an operation to attack US targets in one of America's neighbors would be launched from there. Venezuela is in dispute with its oil-rich neighbor Guyana, whose main oil producer is US company ExxonMobil.

What has been the reaction of Iran and Iraq?

Iran, as expected, has not threatened to retaliate. "This is another adventurous and strategic mistake by the US that will increase tension and instability," said the spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Nasser Kanaani. At the same time, Iraq has summoned the person in charge of US relations in Baghdad to convey protests.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on February 4, 2024.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2024.

US aircraft carrier credit: Reuters
US aircraft carrier credit: Reuters
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