Prime Minister Anthony Albanese brands US airstrikes on Iranian-backed militias as proportionate following drone attack

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Retaliatory air-strikes conducted by the United States on Iranian-linked forces in Iraq and Syria are “not an escalation” of the conflict in the Middle East, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says.

On Friday, the US military carried out a wave of strikes at four sites in Iraq and three in Syria linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and militias it supports, reportedly killing 40 people.

The strikes came after a drone attack targeted a US outpost in northeast Jordan that killed three American servicemen and wounded 40 others.

Speaking on the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday, Mr Albanese said his government supported the actions of the United States.

“These are proportionate, retaliatory for the actions of Iran-backed organisations and they are not an escalation,” he said.

Mr Albanese added the United States has played a responsible role in the region

“You can’t have the attacks we’ve seen and have no response, whether it be the actions of Houthis or the attacks on American troops in Jordan.”

Asked if the government would commit extra support in light of the further escalation of tensions, Mr Albanese said there had been no such request from Australia’s allies.

“We haven’t been asked for further support,” he said.

“We’re working with our allies to play a role [in the Middle East] … our concentration is in the Indo-Pacific. That’s something that the United States and our allies certainly understand.”

Iran, which had denied any involvement in some 160 attacks conducted by local militias on US forces in Iraq and Syria since October 7, condemned the retaliatory strikes as a violation of international law.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said in a statement the attacks represented “another adventurous and strategic mistake by the United States that will result only in increased tension and instability”.

Following the strikes, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said President Joe Biden had directed action against the IRGC and groups it supported.

“This is the start of our response,” Mr Austin said.

“We do not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else, but the president and I will not tolerate attacks on American forces.”

Australia has 16 defence personnel stationed at the Combined Maritime Force Headquarters in Bahrain, but has rejected a request by the US military to send a warship in December.

Australian Defence Force personnel were involved in a separate strikes on Yemen-based Houthi rebels on Saturday.

“US Central Command forces, alongside UK Armed Forces and with the support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and New Zealand conducted strikes against 36 Houthi targets at 13 locations in Iranian-backed Houthi terrorist-controlled areas of Yemen,” US Central Command said in a statement on Sunday.

“These multilateral coalition strikes focused on targets in Houthi-controlled Yemen used to attack international merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region.”

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