WASHINGTON – The Pentagon said on Monday that it was not aware of any Iranian deaths in the recent US strikes against Iran-linked targets in Iraq and Syria.
The United States launched airstrikes in Iraq and Syria on Friday against more than 85 targets linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and militias it backs in retaliation for a deadly attack on US troops.
US Air Force Major General Patrick Ryder told reporters initial indications were that the strikes did not kill any Iranians. But he said other casualties other were likely, without giving details.
Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, a state security force including Iran-backed groups, said 16 of its members were killed including fighters and medics. The government earlier said civilians were among 16 dead.
In Syria, the strikes killed 23 people who had been guarding the targeted locations, said Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which reports on war in Syria.
“It’s fair to conclude that there likely were casualties associated with these strikes,” Ryder told reporters, but said an assessment was ongoing.
He added that there had been two attacks against US troops in Syria since the Friday strikes, but there were no US injuries.
The Pentagon has said it does not want war with Iran and does not believe Tehran wants war either, even as Republican pressure has increased on US President Joe Biden to deal a blow directly.
The US assault came just hours after Biden and top defense leaders joined grieving families to watch as the remains of three Army Reserve soldiers who were killed in a drone attack in Jordan were returned to the US at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
The US has blamed the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a broad coalition of Iran-backed militias, for the deadly attack in Jordan, but has not yet narrowed it down to a specific group. Kataeb Hezbollah is, however, a top suspect.
Some of the militias have been a threat to US bases for years, but the groups intensified their assaults in the wake of Israel’s war with Hamas following the Iran-backed group’s October 7 massacres, which saw terrorists kill 1,200 people and kidnap another 250, mostly civilians.
The war has led to the deaths of over 27,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since October 7, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. These figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed over 10,000 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.
Iran-backed armed groups throughout the region have used the conflict to justify striking Israeli or US interests, including threatening civilian commercial ships and US warships in the Red Sea region with drones or missiles in almost daily exchanges.