Biden Defends Airstrikes: ‘Iran Will Never Get Nuclear Weapon on My Watch’

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    Biden administration officials stepped up their defense of airstrikes on Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria that Secretary of State Antony Blinken said shows the U.S. won’t hesitate to protect its interests in the Middle East.

    The U.S. strikes on Sunday should “send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message,” Blinken said Monday during a visit to Rome. “I hope very much that it is received by those who are intended to receive it.”

    The raids on operational and weapons storage facilities came in response to attacks on U.S. interests and were a “necessary, appropriate and deliberate action” designed to limit the risk of escalation, Blinken said.

    In a potential sign that tit-for-tat attacks may continue, multiple rockets were fired at a base used by American troops in eastern Syria Monday night. A spokesman for the U.S.-led Operation Inherent Resolve said there were no injuries in the attack that took place at 7:44 p.m. local time and that damage was still being assessed.

    There was no immediate reaction to the Sunday attacks from Iran, where President-elect Ebrahim Raisi’s next moves are being closely watched. Iran and world powers have been locked in weeks of talks in Vienna that could see sanctions on the Islamic Republic ease in return for hemming in its contentious nuclear program. Diplomats may meet in the coming days, although no new date has been set.

    Oil markets shrugged off the U.S. strikes, with traders focused on a Thursday meeting of the OPEC+ bloc.

    The strikes were carried out on two locations in Syria and one location in Iraq. The U.S. has said they were aimed at deterring future attacks on American interests in Iraq, where the U.S. is aiding government forces in efforts to defeat Islamic State.

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    In This Story: Iran

    Iran, also called Persia, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. Its central location in Eurasia and proximity to the Strait of Hormuz give it significant geostrategic importance. Tehran is the capital and largest city.

    Iran is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, beginning with the formation of the Elamite kingdoms in the fourth millennium BC. The Iranian Revolution established the current Islamic Republic in 1979.

    Iran’s political system combines elements of a presidential democracy and an Islamic theocracy. Iran is a founding member of the UN, ECO, OIC, and OPEC. It is a major regional and middle power and has large reserves of fossil fuels — including the world’s largest natural gas supply and the third largest proven oil reserves.

    The country’s rich cultural legacy is reflected in part by its 22 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Historically a multi-ethnic country, Iran remains a pluralistic society comprising numerous ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups, the largest being Persians, Azeris, Kurds, Mazandaranis and Lurs.

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  • In This Story: Iraq

    Iraq, officially the Republic of Iraq, is a country in Western Asia. The capital and largest city is Baghdad. Iraq is home to diverse ethnic groups including Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians, Yazidis, Shabakis, Armenians, Mandaeans, Circassians, Sabians and Kawliya. Around 99% of the country’s 38 million citizens are Muslims, with small minorities of Christians, Yarsans, Yezidis and Mandeans also present. The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish.

    Iraq has a coastline measuring 58 km (36 miles) on the northern Persian Gulf and encompasses the Mesopotamian Alluvial Plain, the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range and the eastern part of the Syrian Desert. Two major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, run south through Iraq and into the Shatt al-Arab near the Persian Gulf. These rivers provide Iraq with significant amounts of fertile land. The region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, historically known as Mesopotamia, is often referred to as the cradle of civilisation.

    Iraq is a federal parliamentary republic consisting of 19 governorates, four of which make up the autonomous Kurdistan Region. Disputes over the sovereignty of Kurdistan Region continue.

    Iraq is a founding member of the UN as well as of the Arab League, OIC, Non-Aligned Movement and the IMF.

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  • In This Story: Syria

    Syria, officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon to the southwest, the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest.

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