The United States is not seeking to escalate its simmering conflict with Iran, a senior official said Monday after the Pentagon launched air strikes on Tehran-allied Iraqi militia forces. US Assistant Secretary of State David Schenker said the Sunday strikes on Hezbollah Brigades bases were a message to Iran after months of "restraint" by the administration of President Donald Trump. US on Monday attacked a pro-Iran group in Iraq killing at least 25 fighters.
"We thought it important to hit a significant target set to send a very clear message to them about how serious we take American lives," Schenker told reporters.
"This was a response that was serious, but was, I think in many ways, proportionate," he said.
"We don't want an escalation here, we want a de-escalation."
Brian Hook, the State Department's Special Representative for Iran, said "The president has been very patient. He has shown a great deal of restraint," Hook said.
"We very much hoped that Iran would not miscalculate and confuse our restraint for weakness. But after so many attacks, it was important for the president to direct our armed forces to respond in a way that the Iranian regime will understand."
"We will not tolerate attacks against US citizens, our military or our partners and allies in the region," Hook added.
Russia’s foreign ministry called the “exchange of strikes” between Hezbollah and US forces in Iraq “unacceptable”, and called for restraint from both sides.
“We consider such actions unacceptable and counterproductive. We call upon all parties to refrain from further actions that could sharply destabilise the military-political situation in Iraq, Syria, and the neighbouring countries,” a ministry statement said.
While the Russian statement referred to Hezbollah, the US strikes on Sunday actually targeted the Hezbollah brigades, a radical faction of Hashed al-Shaabi, a Tehran-backed Iraqi paramilitary coalition.