The United States carried out an airstrike targeting facilities of what it called “Iran-backed militia” in Syria following rocket attacks against US forces in Iraq.

According to reports, the attack was approved by President Joe Biden.

The airstrike was the first military action undertaken by the Biden administration, which in its first weeks has emphasized its intent to put more focus on the challenges posed by China, even as Mideast threats persist.

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“This proportionate military response was conducted together with diplomatic measures , including consultation with coalition partners,” the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, John Kirby, was quoted as saying by AP.

“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 deescalate the overall situation in eastern Syria and Iraq.”

Kirby had said Tuesday that Iraq is in charge of investigating the 15 February attack.

Attack on US embassy in Iraq

A volley of rockets on Monday targeted the high-security zone in the city of Irbil in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish-run region that is home to the US embassy. At least one civilian contractor was killed and US service member and other coalition troops were left wounded following the strike.

The attack was the third in a week to target Western diplomatic, military or commercial installations across Iraq after months of relative calm.

The Biden administration had condemned the strike but as recently as this week, officials indicated they had not determined for certain who carried it out.

Officials have noted that in the past, Iranian-backed Shiite militia groups have been responsible for numerous rocket attacks that targeted US personnel or facilities in Iraq.

A little-known Shiite militant group calling itself Saraya Awliya al-Dam, Arabic for Guardians of Blood Brigade, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Iran this week said it has no links to the Guardians of Blood Brigade.

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