Wednesday, November 22, 2023

US Finally Retaliates Against Pro-Iran Groups In Iraq

(US Air Force)

Starting in October pro-Iran groups have been attacking Iraqi bases that house American troops to show that they stand with the Palestinians and against the Biden Administration’s backing of Israel. That escalated in November as ballistic missiles were employed for the first time leading to U.S. casualties. Washington responded with strikes on Hashd groups in Iraq.


On November 20 ballistic missiles were fired at the Al-Assad airbase in Anbar wounding 8 Americans. Kataib Hezbollah was believed to be responsible. The U.S. responded with an AC-130 gunship firing at Hezbollah vehicles in Abu Ghraib, Baghdad that killed 1 fighter. A drone strike was also reported upon Asaib Ahl Al-Haq in Anbar’s Ramadi district. US defense sources told the media that Kataib Hezbollah facilities were also struck in Babil’s Jurf al-Sakhr which is a major base for the group. This was the first time that the Biden Administration retaliated against pro-Iran groups in Iraq. Before it was just hitting these groups in Syria.


Attacks by Hashd units aligned with Iran began in October in response to the Gaza War. The Assad airbase has been struck 24 times while Al-Harir airbase in Irbil has been targeted 15 times with a mix of drones, rockets, mortars and now missiles. A joint US-Iraq patrol in Ninewa was also hit with an IED. These attacks were symbolic in nature using just a few drones and rockets to show that these factions supported the Palestinians. The use of a ballistic missile combined with injuring American personnel was a large escalation that brought a reaction from Washington which was to be expected.


When the Gaza War began some Shiite leaders were happy with just criticizing the U.S. for backing Israel but there were others who wished to up the ante. Kataib Hezbollah said it wanted to all Americans out of Iraq and to close the embassy while Harakat al-Nujaba’s Akram al-Kaabi claimed that his group struck Israel. Washington told the Sudani government that if he didn’t stop these assaults the U.S. would respond. This message was delivered to Baghdad at the start of November when Secretary of State Anthony Blinkin visited. The problem is Baghdad has no control over these groups even though they are part of the government. Al Mada for instance reported that the Shiite parties talked with the Hashd but failed to reach a ceasefire. This is an embarrassment for Prime Minister Sudani because not only is he shown to be powerless but the violence is undermining Iraq’s business and political environment. What foreign companies would want to operate in Iraq at this time while Western governments have pulled their personnel fearing for their safety.


The question now is whether things will continue to spiral upwards or will things calm down? Pro-Iran groups show no sign that they will back down and could employ not only more drones and rockets but larger caliber weapons as well like more missiles. That will inevitably lead to a spiraling circle of violence as the Biden Administration will carry out more retaliatory strikes. Since Baghdad has no real say in the matter only a resolution of the Gaza War will see things end.




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Kurdistan 24, "Armed drones attack coalition base in Erbil, says Kurdish counter terrorism group," 11/9/23

- "Fifth drone strike in past week targets U.S. troops," 10/21/23


Al Mada, “Collapse of negotiations with the attackers of the camps and Al-Sudani: There is no complacency in protecting the international coalition,” 10/25/23

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- "Two Drones Target An American Military Base In Erbil," 11/7/23

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Al Rafidain, "Security Source: Targeting The Vicinity Of Ain Al-Assad Base, Which Is Operated By International Coalition," 11/15/23


Reuters, "Explosive device near Iraq's Mosul targets US-Iraqi patrol," 11/9/23


Rudaw, "Erbil airbase again targeted with suicide drones," 11/11/23


Salem, Amr, "Drone attack targets Ain Al-Assad base in Iraq," Iraqi News, 10/29/23

- "New drone attack targets military base in western Iraq," Iraqi News, 10/31/23


Shafaq News, "The factions attack Ain al-Assad with a drone," 11/20/23

- “Leader Al-Nujaba announces the bombing of Israel’s Eilat through Jordanian airspace,” 11/13/23

- "A missile bombardment targets Ain al-Assad base in Anbar," 10/24/23

- “Targeting Ain al-Assad base in Anbar with mortar shells,” 11/11/23

- "Targeting Ain al-Asad base in western Iraq with Karad missiles," 10/19/23

- "With a drone … the armed factions announce a new attack on the Ain al-Assad base in Anbar," 10/27/23


Szuba, Jared, “US gunship strikes Iran-backed militias in Iraq after ballistic missile attack,” Al Monitor, 11/21/23


Van Wilgenburg, Wladimir, "Attack drones shot down above Ain al-Assad Airbase: Coalition," Kurdistan 24, 11/6/23

- "Armed drones attack coalition base in Erbil, says Kurdish counter terrorism group," 11/9/23

- Wladimir, "Iran-backed groups continue attacks on US bases in Iraq and Syria," 10/30/23


Xinhua, "2 airbases housing U.S.-led coalition forces attacked in Iraq," 11/17/23

- "Rockets hit Iraqi base housing U.S. forces in W. Iraq," 10/22/23


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