Iran and its proxies have attacked U.S. troops 83 times under Biden, Defense Secretary Austin says

The United States has only responded four times with airstrikes, with the most recent one coming after an American contractor was killed.

Updated: March 29, 2023 - 4:22pm

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Iran and its proxy forces have attacked U.S. service members in Iraq and Syria 83 times since President Joe Biden entered the Oval Office, but the U.S. has only responded with major strikes four times, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

"So, what kind of a signal do we think this sends to Iran when they can attack us 83 times since Joe Biden has become president and we only respond four [times]?" Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) responded to Austin on Tuesday during the tense hearing. "Maybe it's because they know that we will not retaliate until they kill an American, which emboldens them to keep launching these attacks, which kill Americans."

The most recent U.S. strike was last week after an American contractor was killed and five U.S. troops were wounded in Syria in an Iranian-linked drone attack.

It is unclear how frequent Iranian attacks were under previous administrations. 

Retired Army Col. Peter Mansoor, a military historian who previously served as executive officer to Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq, told military outlet Task & Purpose that Iranian-backed militia groups attacked U.S. service members multiple times a day in 2007 during the Iraq surge.

While attacks have decreased since that time, the number of recent attacks is alarming, he said.

"This basically shows us that Iran is on a war footing with the United States, in their view," Mansoor said. "It's a high number and it shows that Iran has not reconciled itself with the U.S. presence in Iraq or in the greater Middle East."