The carefully planned raids were the largest yet against Iran’s proxies and are likely to continue until threats to US personnel are neutralised. US retaliation, when it came, was broad and deep, and telegraphed five days in advance.
The White House, the Pentagon and state department had spent the best part of a week talking about the response to Sunday’s drone attack on a US base in northern Jordan, which killed three Americans and wounded more than 30. They warned that retaliation against the suspects, primary among those the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia, would be “multi-tiered” and continue over many days, but when the opening salvo came in the early hours of Saturday Middle Eastern time, it still caused some surprise in its range and scale.
According to US Central Command, 85 targets were hit in seven facilities, four in Syria and three in Iraq, with more than 125 precision munitions, using a mix of drones and long range B1 bombers flying from US territory in a demonstration of the reach of the US air force. “Tonight’s strikes in western Iraq eastern Syria are FAR bigger than any action undertaken before against Iran’s proxies – huge secondary explosions on both sides of the border suggest big rocket/missile depots have been hit,” Charles Lister, senior fellow of the Middle East Institute, said on the social media platform X.
Joe Biden said the targets were facilities used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and “affiliated militia”, and he made clear that it was just the beginning. The full response for the attack on the Tower 22 base would “continue at times and places of our choosing”. The limits of the response were as clear as its scale. As expected, no targets were hit on Iranian territory, and senior administration officials made clear Iran was out of bounds for any future sorties as well.
Comment: This is the beginning of an analysis by Julian Borger, the Guardian’s world affairs editor. From his analysis and the scope of this first wave of attacks shows an administration searching for a path between a strong violent response demanded by damned near everyone in the US and the desire not to initiate a direct war with Iran or put Iran in the position where she feels she must initiate a direct war with the US.
This was advertised as a multi-day, multi-tiered response so I figured the first night’s strikes weren’t the end of it. I waited all day for the next shoe to fall. Leith hinted that it was about to happen when he told us about the Iranian spy ship raising the hotel alpha pennants and hightailing it to a Chinese port in Djibouti. A few hours later, the news of the next strike hit the airwaves. Either the ship saw it coming or was warned. This is CNN’s brief account:
The US and the United Kingdom have conducted strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen from air and surface platforms — including F/A-18s — on over 30 targets across 13 locations, according to officials. The US and UK carried out the strikes with the support of several other countries, according to a joint statement on Saturday.
“Today’s strike specifically targeted sites associated with the Houthis’ deeply buried weapons storage facilities, missile systems and launchers, air defense systems, and radars,” the statement released by the US, UK, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and New Zealand said. The Houthis said US and UK warplanes struck multiple provinces in Yemen, including the capital of Sanaa.
Two US destroyers fired Tomahawk missiles as part of the strikes, a US official told CNN. The USS Gravely and USS Carney fired the land-attack cruise missiles and F/A-18 fighter jets from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier were also involved, officials said.
Comment: These two series of strikes seem fairly standard to me. I am wondering what Smokin’ Joe Biden meant by calling the complete response multi-tiered. Will it be more strikes by different air platforms or something more imaginative?