The Telegraph 2024-02-03 04:01:22

US bombs Iranian targets in Iraq and Syria

  • Follow the latest updates on the US strikes in our live blog

The United States dropped more than 125 bombs on Iran’s military and its allies in Iraq and Syria on Friday night as it began retaliation for attacks on American troops.

US bombers, some of which had flown across the Atlantic for the mission, hit more than 85 targets in Iraq and Syria, including sites held by the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

It is the first of a series of measures by the US to retaliate against Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria, after more than 160 attacks on American forces in the last three months.

Joe Biden, the US president, vowed to retaliate for the attacks against its soldiers, saying: “If you harm an American, we will respond.”

“This past Sunday, three American soldiers were killed in Jordan by a drone launched by militant groups backed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

“Earlier today, I attended the dignified return of these brave Americans at Dover Airforce Base, and I spoke with each of their families.

“This afternoon, at my direction, US military forces struck targets at facilities in Iraq and Syria that the IRGC and affiliated militia use to attack US forces. Our response began today. It will continue at times and places of our choosing.

“The United States does not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world. But let all those who might seek to do us harm know this: If you harm an American, we will respond.”

Although the US has struck Iran’s proxy groups before, it is the first time that the US has struck Iranian military forces directly.

The strikes took place at 9pm GMT, three days after Mr Biden said he had agreed a military response to the death of three American troops at a military outpost in Jordan on Sunday.

A spokesman for the US Central Command said American forces had dropped “more than 125 precision munitions”, hitting command and control centres, rocket and missile stockpiles, drone storage sites and supply chain facilities.

The strikes came after weeks of demands by the US and its allies, including the UK, for Iran to “rein in” its proxy groups in the region after a spike in assaults on US forces that followed the outbreak of war in Gaza on October 7.

The most severe attack came on Sunday at Tower 22, a US military outpost near the Syrian border in Jordan, when three troops were killed by a suicide drone that was mistakenly identified as American.

The Pentagon later named the victims as Sgt William Rivers, 46, Specialist Kennedy Sanders, 24, and Specialist Breonna Moffett, 23. All were assigned to the 718th Engineer Company of the US Army Reserves.

The White House blamed the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Islamist forces, for their deaths and vowed to respond with force.

The fatalities are the first US combat deaths in the Middle East since 2021 when 13 personnel were killed by a suicide bomber at Kabul Airport during the withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan. They are also the first US deaths to be blamed on Iranian-backed groups.

Iran denied responsibility for the attack and had begun to withdraw IRGC forces from bases in Syria and Iraq in anticipation of the US strikes.

Earlier on Friday, Mr Biden witnessed the repatriation of the bodies of the US troops killed in Jordan at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.

Speaking on Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC, the president said: “They risked it all, and we’ll never forget the sacrifice and service to our country.”

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President Biden said the US air strikes on Iraq and Syria on Friday night are the beginning of the White House’s response to a deadly drone attack at a US base in Jordan.

The US carried out airstrikes on 85 targets in Iraq and Syria, targeting command and control headquarters, intelligence centres and storage facilities.

Joe Biden had vowed to deliver a decisive response, but insisted the US did not want a wider war with Iran. However the US president warned that those who harm Americans will be punished.

“This afternoon, at my direction, US military forces struck targets at facilities in Iraq and Syria that the IRGC and affiliated militia use to attack US forces.

“Our response began today. It will continue at times and places of our choosing.

“The United States does not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world. But let all those who might seek to do us harm know this: If you harm an American, we will respond.”

Senior White House sources stressed on Friday that US action would not include any strikes on targets within Iran itself.

Follow the latest updates below

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Prince Philip nicknamed Meghan ‘DoW’ because she reminded him of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor

Prince Philip nicknamed Meghan Markle “DoW” because she reminded him so much of Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, a new book has claimed.

Prince Philip was “one of the few wary of succumbing to her charm offensive”, it has been reported, and used the shorthand “DoW” from “the moment he detected her apparent similarity to Wallis”.

A new biography by Ingrid Seward, an author and editor of Majesty Magazine, claims the late Queen “approved” of Prince Harry’s fiancee at first, but later described her wedding dress as “too white” for a divorcee.

“Much later,” says Seward, “she would remark in her clipped way that perhaps Harry had been ‘too in love’ with the American actress”.

In a section serialised in the Daily Mail, Seward writes: “From their very first meeting, over tea at Buckingham Palace, the Queen approved of Meghan Markle. Not only did she like her, she had high hopes for what the American actress might be able to achieve with Harry for the youth of the Commonwealth.

Whole country took to Meghan

“Soon the country as a whole seemed to take to Meghan with equally genuine delight.

“One of the few wary of succumbing to her charm offensive, however, was Prince Philip.

“While the Queen continued to champion Harry’s new love, he warned his wife to be cautious. It was uncanny, he told her, how much Meghan reminded him of the Duchess of Windsor.”

In 1936, when Princess Elizabeth was 10, her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated the throne, citing his love for the American divorcee he wanted to marry. He and Wallis Simpson became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, all-but exiled from the Royal family and living overseas.

Windsors disgraced Britain

They went on to disgrace the new King and country by travelling to Germany to meet Hitler and were photographed giving Nazi salutes.

The Queen Mother never forgave them, blaming the abdication for the early death of her husband – Elizabeth II’s father – George VI.

Seward adds that Prince Philip was not simply referring to physical appearance, and their lives as “glamorous American divorcees”, but also the impact Mrs Simpson had had on the British monarchy.

Prince Philip “never appeared to change his mind about Meghan”, she writes.

Lady Elizabeth Anson, a cousin of the late Queen, is quoted as saying she only made one remark to her about the Sussexes’ wedding: that her gown was “too white”.

“In the monarch’s view, it was not appropriate for a divorcee getting remarried in church to look quite so flamboyantly virginal,” says Seward, who also claims Elizabeth II was “uncomfortable” with the then-Prince of Wales deputising for Ms Markle’s father Thomas to walk her up the aisle.

Late Queen ‘hated’ long sermons 

In a series of claims about Her Late Majesty’s thoughts, the book states that she was “startled by the impassioned outpourings of the American Archbishop Michael Curry, who spoke for more than 14 minutes”, as she and Prince Philip famously hated long sermons.

“According to Lady Elizabeth, the Queen was dismayed by Harry’s high-handed attitude both before and after the wedding, and their relationship was ‘quite badly damaged by it all’,” Seward writes.

“It was even more damaged when Harry decided to give up being a working royal and leave the country – a decision, said Lady Elizabeth, that the Queen never truly understood.”

After the Oprah Winfrey interview, it is claimed, Prince Harry’s grandmother “couldn’t condone the way he was speaking about the institution of the monarchy she’d spent 70 years preserving”.

“At that point the Queen decided there was no longer any point in worrying about Harry as he wasn’t going to take notice of anyone but his wife,” the book says.

My Mother And I by Ingrid Seward will be published by Simon & Schuster on February 15.

Carl Weathers, actor who played Apollo Creed in Rocky, dies aged 76

Carl Weathers, who starred as Apollo Creed in the Rocky films, has died aged 76.

The actor, who also played roles in 1987’s Predator, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the Adam Sandler comedy Happy Gilmore, died peacefully in his sleep, his family said on Friday.

“We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Carl Weathers,” his family said in a statement.

“He died peacefully in his sleep on Thursday, February 1st, 2024.”

The statement added: “Carl was an exceptional human being who lived an extraordinary life.

“Through his contributions to film, television, the arts and sports, he has left an indelible mark and is recognised worldwide and across generations. He was a beloved brother, father, grandfather, partner, and friend.”

Weathers got his big-screen break in 1976, when he landed the role of nemesis-turned-ally Creed against Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa in the boxing franchise.

His introduction to the iconic franchise was not an auspicious start, he later revealed.

Auditioning alongside Stallone, the film’s writer and lead, but at the time a relative unknown, Weathers said he read the scene but felt it didn’t land.

“I could do a lot better if you got me a real actor to work with,” he recalled saying in an interview with the Hollywood Reporters.

“So I just insulted the star of the movie without really knowing it and not intending to.” He also lied that he had any boxing experience. 

His character of Creed was loosely based on boxers Muhammad Ali, Jack Johnson, Sugar Ray Leonard and Joe Louis. 

“It puts you on the map and makes your career, so to speak,” he said of the role in an interview with the Daily Beast 2017.

“But that’s a one-off, so you’ve got to follow it up with something. Fortunately those movies kept coming, and Apollo Creed became more and more in people’s consciousness and welcome in their lives, and it was just the right guy at the right time.”

Weathers also found success on the small screen, with roles in “Arrested Development and playing Greef Karga in Disney’s The Mandalorian, for which he received an Emmy nomination in 2021. He also voiced Combat Carl in the Toy Story franchise.

Before his decades-long Hollywood career took off,  Weathers saw success as an American football player, playing for San Diego State University as a college student and then professionally for the Oakland Raiders.

He named actors Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte, and athletes Jim Brown and Ali – stars who broke the mold and the race barrier – among his idols.

“There are so many people that came before me who I admired and whose success I wanted to emulate, and just kind of hit the benchmarks they hit in terms of success, who created a pathway that I’ve been able to walk and find success as a result. And hopefully I can inspire someone else to do good work as well,” he told The Detroit News in 2023. “I guess I’m just a lucky guy.”

Growing up in New Orleans, Weathers started performing in plays as a young pupil.

In high school, athletics took him down another path but he would reunite with his first love later in life when he retired from professional American football in 1974.

Weathers is survived by two sons.