In response to several drone attacks against American personnel and facilities in Iraq, Washington carried out an airstrike against an Iraqi-backed militia stationed in Iraq and Syria. The strike was carried out on Sunday, where operational centers and weapon storage facilities were primarily targeted.
While no official statements from the Pentagon refer to casualties, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, speculates that five militia personnel were killed and several more were wounded in the attack.
According to the Pentagon, two locations in Syria and one in Iraq were targeted in the airstrike. It is believed Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada had bases in these locations. Kataib Hezbollah had been declared as a terrorist group in 2009, accusing the group of disrupting peace and stability in Iraq. John Kirby, press secretary to the pentagon, has come out in calling the airstrike ‘defensive’, and an approach to deal with the ongoing series of attacks by Iran-backed groups targeting Washington’s interests in Iraq.
During Biden’s rule, this is the second time that Washington has carried out an airstrike in Iraq and Syria. Similar incidents occurred in February under similar guises. The strike was claimed in retaliation for a rocket attack in Iraq that had killed a civilian contractor. Additionally, it had also wounded a US service member and other coalition troops.
Kirby talked of the attack and future actions in these words:
“Given the ongoing series of attacks by Iran-backed groups targeting US interests in Iraq, the president directed further military action to disrupt and deter such attacks.”
While US forces based in Iraq have been earmarked several times over the past few months, Iran has denied any involvement in such military actions. Currently, around 2,500 US troops are stationed in the country as a part of an international coalition created to fight against the Jihadist Islamic State (ISIS).
Since the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein’s government in 2003, Iran’s influence over Iraq’s internal concerns has grown steadily to have long standing consequences. The strike occurred at a time when Iran has been holding sustained conversations with global powers including the US about reviving a 2015 nuclear deal.
The consequences of the airstrike are yet to be seen but this definite step by the US will have strong impacts in the time to come.