KEY POINTS

  • Iran-backed militias had launched attacks on US personnel using unmanned aerial vehicles
  • These militias have launched at least five such attacks since April
  • The US military is currently developing ways to counter drone attacks

President Joe Biden on Sunday directed U.S. military forces to carry out three airstrikes on weapons storage facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups.

In a release from the Department of Defense, President Biden had ordered U.S. military forces to conduct defensive precision airstrikes on facilities in Iraq and Syria. The facilities were targeted after several unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) launched attacks on Iraqi bases housing U.S. personnel. 

“As demonstrated by this evening's strikes, President Biden has been clear that he will act to protect U.S. personnel. Given the ongoing series of attacks by Iran-backed groups targeting U.S. interests in Iraq, the President directed further military action to disrupt and deter such attacks,” the Defense Department’s news release read. 

“As a matter of international law, the United States acted pursuant to its right of self-defense. The strikes were both necessary to address the threat and appropriately limited in scope. As a matter of domestic law, the President took this action pursuant to his Article II authority to protect U.S. personnel in Iraq.”

Iran-backed militias have launched at least five attacks against U.S. facilities since April. The attacks targeted bases used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Special Operations units. 

The militias used small, armed drones programmed to divebomb and crash into their selected targets, according to The New York Times.

In early June, an air defense system at al-Asad Airbase, which houses U.S. troops and coalition forces, shot down two drones. Several hours before the attack on the al-Asad Airbase, one rocket round hit the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center (BDSC).

Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the top American commander in the Middle East, told the Associated Press in early May that the U.S. military is working hard to find ways to counter the drone attacks, including improving radar sensors to identify any approaching threat and potentially installing fencing and high netting.  

President Joe Biden touches his neck after a cicada crawled up it on June 9, 2021 President Joe Biden touches his neck after a cicada crawled up it on June 9, 2021 Photo: AFP / Brendan Smialowski