U.S. Changes Tune on Having Given Iraq Advance Warning of Air Strikes

The U.S. did not notify the Iraqi government before it launched a barrage of retaliatory air strikes on Friday, contrary to an earlier statement by the White House which claimed that it did, according to the Biden Administration.

The strikes, which leveled dozens of targets across Iraq and Syria, were conducted in response to a Jan. 28 drone attack in Jordan that left three U.S. service members dead. In a Friday call with reporters, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said, “We did inform the Iraqi government prior to the strikes occurring.”

But during a Monday press briefing, Vedant Patel, a State Department spokesperson, walked that assertion back. “There was not a pre-notification,” he said. “We informed the Iraqis immediately after the strikes occurred.”

When The Daily Beast reached out to the National Security Council for more information, a spokesperson confirmed that, for reasons of “operational security,” there had been no formal warning issued to Tehran ahead of the strikes.

The spokesperson added that Washington had, however, made it clear in the aftermath of the Jan. 28 attack that the U.S. would respond “at a time and place of its choosing.”

Kirby added in a statement that he had been using the information he had been furnished with at the time of the Friday call. “It was not as specific as it could have been, and I regret any confusion caused,” he said, reiterating that the U.S. had made “no secret” of its intention to respond.

“And, we did, in fact, officially notify Iraq, as appropriate with standard procedure,” he added.

The Daily Beast has requested more information on the matter from the National Security Council.

The Friday strikes killed several civilians alongside dozens of Iran-backed militants, according to the Iraqi government, which previously denied that it had been given advance warning of the show of force.

On Saturday, the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had summoned the chargé d’affairs of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to hand him an official note of protest, declaring that “our country is not a place for sending messages.”

A day later, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that the U.S. was still investigating claims of civilian casualties. “I don’t have anything to report to you this morning publicly on that,” he said, according to Task & Purpose. “But we will continue to make our assessments.”

He also indicated on CBS’ Face the Nation that the strikes would not be the U.S.’ last word on the matter. Though he rejected the idea of an “open-ended military campaign,” he suggested that “what happened on Friday was the beginning, not the end, of our response.”

“There will be more steps—some seen, some perhaps unseen—all in an effort to send a very clear message that when American forces are attacked, when Americans are killed as three service members, tragically were at Tower 22, we will respond and we will respond forcefully,” he said. “And we will respond in a sustained way.”

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