U.S. didn’t use Iraqi information to attack targets in Syria: Pentagon spokesman

File – The Pentagon building is seen in Arlington, Virginia, U.S. (Washington Post)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — The United States did not use information provided by the Iraqi government to attack targets belonging to Iranian-aligned militia groups in Syria, said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on Saturday.

The United States carried out air strikes authorized by President Joe Biden against facilities belonging to Iranian-backed militia in eastern Syria on Thursday, in response to rocket attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq.

“The Iraqi government is investigating who launched rockets on its soil in recent days and weeks,” Kirby said in a tweet early on Saturday.

“But to be clear: we did not use Iraqi information to develop our targets for last night’s strikes,” he added.

His remarks came after the Iraqi military said Baghdad had not exchanged information with the United States over the targeting of locations in Syria, and that cooperation with the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq was limited to fighting Islamic State (ISIS).

Kirby said the Coalition forces were in Iraq to support the Iraqi government in its fight against ISIS militants.

“We are there for no other reason – but we will act to protect our personnel, as President Biden demonstrated,” he tweeted.

The air strikes, early on Friday local time, targeted militia sites on the Syrian side of the Iraqi-Syrian frontier, where groups backed by Iran control an important crossing for weapons, personnel and goods.

U.S. officials said they were limited in scope to show Biden’s administration will act firmly while trying to avoid a big regional escalation.

Western officials and some Iraqi officials accuse Iranian-backed groups of involvement in deadly rocket attacks on U.S. sites and personnel in Iraq over the last month.

On February 15, a non-American contractor was killed at a U.S. military base at Erbil International Airport in the Kurdistan Region, in the days that followed, rockets were fired at a base hosting U.S. forces, and near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, criticized the U.S. strikes and called for “unconditional respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.”

An Iraqi militia official close to Iran told Reuters that the strikes targeted positions of the Kataib Hezbollah paramilitary group along the border.

The official said the strikes killed one fighter and wounded four.

Kataib Hezbollah later confirmed the death of one of its fighters and identified him as Sayyid Rahi Salam Zayid al-Sharifi.

“The American enemy persists in its criminality and kills the protectors of the nation and the honorable people of the country, not deterred from shedding innocent blood as long as the wages of murder are received from Saudi Arabia and the Emirates,” a KH statement said.

Local sources and a medical source in eastern Syria told Reuters that at least 17 people had been killed, but gave no further details. That toll could not be confirmed.

Biden’s decision to strike only in Syria and not in Iraq gives the Iraqi government breathing room as it investigates the Erbil attack, which also wounded Americans.

Kataib Hezbollah has denied involvement in recent attacks against U.S. interests. Iran denies involvement in attacks on U.S. sites.

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