On June 29, several rockets landed on a U.S. base in Wasit province, southern Iraq along the Iranian border killing three soldiers. The incident involved an improvised rocket-assisted mortar (IRAM), which also left more than a dozen others wounded. That brings June’s total to 15 U.S. soldiers killed, with 14 in hostile actions. Also this month, an American contractor working for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was killed by a sticky bomb attached to his car in Baghdad. The last time U.S. forces had such losses was in June 2009 when 15 were killed as well, 10 of which were by enemy actions. The previous high for combat deaths was 24 in June 2008.
IRAM used against U.S. Camp Loyalty, Baghdad, April 2008
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|(Danger Room, Wired Magazine)|
Hezbollah Brigades is a small organization that receives weapons and funding from Iran. It has about 1,000 fighters, each of which receives a salary of between $300-$500 a month according to an Iraqi intelligence officer. Besides IRAMs, Special Groups like Hezbollah have also been using advanced rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) and explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) against U.S. forces. Like the IRAM, these are all supplied by Iran, which uses smuggling routes through Diyala province to Baghdad, and from Um Qasr port in Basra to southern Iraq, along with buses carrying Iranian pilgrims to religious sites.
Iran has been known to step up its military operations to coincide with important political events in Iraq. This time it is focusing upon the December 31 date for U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq. Beginning in April, American officials began traveling to Baghdad to try to convince the government to allow some residual force to stay past the deadline. Tehran wants to prevent that from happening, so it is increasing its aid to Special Groups to force the U.S. out. That’s exactly when Shiite militants began ramping up their attacks. There were 93 operations against U.S. forces in February, then 128 in March, and 162 by April, 72 of which were mortar and rocket attacks upon the Green Zone for that last month. That’s also when casualties took off going from none in January and February caused by Shiites, to one in March, to four in April, and now to fourteen in June. Two soldiers were also killed in Baghdad in May, but it’s impossible to tell who was behind that act. Besides Hezbollah Brigades, Sadr’s Promised Day Brigades and the League of the Righteous have also been linked to attacks upon Americans. More U.S. deaths can be expected into the future until their fate is finally decided by Iraq’s politicians. Ironically, once that decision is made, Tehran is likely to scale back its military support and return to using political, economic, and social means to achieve its goals in Iraq as it has done in the past.
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