Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained that the U.S.-backed military airstrikes against an Iranian-backed militia, Kataeb Hezbollah, over the weekend were a "defensive action" intended to protect American interests in the Middle East.
“Well, it begins by an understanding that this was a defensive action designed to protect American forces and American citizens in Iraq, and it was aimed also at deterring Iran,” Pompeo said Monday morning on "Fox & Friends."
The U.S. airstrikes targeted five sites in Iraq and Syria in response to an attack that killed a U.S. defense contractor, wounded four U.S. troops and two members of the Iraqi Security Forces near Kirkuk, Iraq on Friday. It followed attacks by Iranian proxies earlier in December. The State Department released the following statement at the time.
Iran’s proxies have recently conducted several attacks against bases where Iraqi Security Forces are co-located with U.S. and International Coalition personnel. On December 9, they launched a rocket attack against an Iraqi facility located on the Baghdad International Airport compound. The December 9 attack wounded five Iraqi soldiers, two critically. This was followed by another rocket attack on the airport on December 11. We hope and pray these brave Iraqis will quickly and fully recover from their injuries.
The United States will continue to work hand-in-hand with our Iraqi partners, including the Iraqi Security Forces, which played a pivotal role in reclaiming Iraq’s sovereignty from ISIS. We must also use this opportunity to remind Iran’s leaders that any attacks by them, or their proxies of any identity, that harm Americans, our allies, or our interests will be answered with a decisive U.S. response. Iran must respect the sovereignty of its neighbors and immediately cease its provision of lethal aid and support to third parties in Iraq and throughout the region.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Pompeo to thank him for "America’s important action against Iran and its emissaries in the region.”
Iran, however, condemned the Sunday airstrikes as an act of "terrorism."
Pompeo noted that the U.S. “would take additional actions as necessary to ensure that we act in our own self-defense.”
The Trump administration has taken a much different approach with the Iranian regime than his predecessor. For instance, in 2018 Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iranian nuclear agreement, which he explained did nothing to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions.