140 Iran-Backed Attacks Targeted US Troops in Iraq, Syria Since Oct. 7: Pentagon
140 Iran-Backed Attacks Targeted US Troops in Iraq, Syria Since Oct. 7: Pentagon

By Lorenz Duchamps

The Pentagon has revealed that U.S. forces stationed in Iraq and Syria have come under attack on 140 separate occasions since the Hamas terrorist group attacked Israel in early October.

Speaking at a news conference on Jan. 18, Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said that there have been 57 attacks directed at U.S. troops in Iraq and 83 directed at U.S. troops in Syria.

Ms. Singh did not specify the number of U.S. personnel injured in the spate of attacks. However, in mid-November, she did provide an update on the number of casualties in similar attacks on U.S. bases in the two countries, saying a total of 59 U.S. service members were injured in 55 separate attacks since October.

Asked what the United States’ message is to Iran-backed groups targeting U.S. forces in the Middle East, Ms. Singh acknowledged that tensions in the region are high right now, but she vowed the United States will continue to call on Iran-backed groups to stop rockets and drone attacks, noting the U.S. military is “meeting those words with actions.”

“We know Iran funds, supports, equips, trains these groups … in places throughout—whether it be Iraq and Syria, in Lebanon, in Yemen. We know Iran’s hand is behind all of these groups,” Ms. Singh said.

She added: “And so our message has been very clear—we don’t seek a regional conflict, we don’t want to see a regional conflict, and we certainly don’t want what’s happening in Gaza to spill out into a larger regional or wider-scale war.”

“We are being very public with our message to Iran and we want these—we certainly want these attacks to stop, not only on our forces … in Iraq and Syria, but [also] our forces in the Red Sea and commercial shipping.”

Ms. Singh’s latest remarks on attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria came days after the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of Iran, which the United States designates as a terrorist organization, claimed responsibility for missile attacks on targets in the two countries.

The U.S. Department of State condemned the attacks, calling them a “reckless and imprecise set of strikes,” but officials confirmed that no U.S. facilities were targeted and there were no U.S. casualties.

“The United States supports the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Iraq,” Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said in a statement.

Some 2,500 U.S. troops are currently deployed at military bases throughout Iraq and about 900 others are stationed in Syria, which shares a border with Iraq.

The deployments are part of a U.S.-led international coalition ostensibly tasked with preventing a resurgence of the ISIS terrorist group, which used to hold territory in Iraq and Syria but was said to have been largely eradicated by 2019.

Wider Regional Conflict

Since Oct. 7, 2023, tensions have flared up again in the Middle East after the Hamas terrorist group launched a surprise incursion on Israeli territory, killing many Israeli civilians and tourists near the Gaza border. They also abducted more than 200 people, including women, children, and the elderly.

While the Israeli military has carried out a retaliatory military campaign throughout the Gaza Strip in the months since the Oct. 7 attacks, the United States has deployed additional military resources to deter additional attacks on Israel and a broader conflict throughout the Middle East.

During this week’s news conference, Ms. Singh also argued that an uptick in attacks by Iran-backed Houthis in the Red Sea does not represent a widening of the Israel—Hamas conflict.

“What’s happening in Gaza is—despite what the Houthis say, is very different from what they’re doing. Fifty nations, some of which have no geographic location or connection to the Middle East, are being attacked by the Houthis,” Ms. Singh said.

“I mean, you have Chinese ships going through. You have Russian ships going through. You have all sorts of countries’ ships, commercial vessels that are transiting this waterway that have nothing to do with what’s happening in Israel and in Gaza,” she added.

The Houthis have said their attacks on merchant ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden are intended to target vessels that they believe are connected to the Israeli side.

Meanwhile, the administration of President Joe Biden announced this week that it is re-designating the Houthis as a global terrorist organization.

In the final days of the Trump administration, President Donald Trump designated the Iran-backed group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) entity. President Biden rescinded those Trump-era designations less than a month after taking office.

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