Leadership of the US-led coalition operating in Iraq reportedly raised the threat level for American service members in the Arab country on Friday over concerns that a response to the recent US airstrikes at Syria-Iraq Border could be imminent.
Citing two sources familiar with the changes, Fox News reported that officials also placed American contractors stationed at the Balad Air Base on high alert, requiring all individuals on base to be fitted with protective gear when outside of “hardened” buildings.
Additionally, only “mission-essential” movement will be allowed at the base between the hours of 6:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. local time.
Sources stated the move was a “routine precaution” in light of the current events. A source told the outlet that the “protection of coalition troops is the #1 priority, so taking force protection levels higher is wise and prudent.”
Earlier on Thursday, US warplanes launched strike on Eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor near the Iraqi border. The Pentagon confirmed the strikes, saying they were targeting “Iranian-backed militia” in response to recent attacks against US occupation forces across Iraq.
Also on Friday, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that the launch sent a “very clear signal that the US is going to protect its people, it’s going to protect its interests and it’s going to protect its partners.”
Kirby’s remarks were later echoed by US President Joe Biden, who told reporters that the strikes effectively informed Iran that “you can’t act with impunity,” and that Tehran must “be careful” with its choices.
Iran has condemned the US airstrikes and referred to the “aggressive attack” as a “violation of international law.” Saeed Khatibzadeh, the spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, noted in a statement that the Thursday strikes violated both the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria, and will only work to further destabilize the region.