The United States has conducted two rounds of strikes in Iraq against Iranian-backed militants, marking the first publicly reported U.S. responses in Iraq to attacks against troops in the region. These strikes come in the midst of a politically delicate situation in Iraq, where Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani has struggled to rein in Iranian-backed militias, a powerful bloc in his governing coalition.
U.S. officials revealed that the strikes were a direct response to attacks against U.S. and Coalition forces by Iran and Iran-backed groups. The strikes targeted two facilities in Iraq, including a Kataeb Hezbollah operations center and a Command and Control node near Al Anbar and Jurf al Saqr.
A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, disclosed that Kataeb Hezbollah personnel were present at the targeted locations, and an assessment of any casualties was ongoing. Additionally, U.S. forces were attacked at an air base west of Baghdad, resulting in injuries and minor damage to infrastructure.
The timing of these attacks is significant, as they come after a year-long unilateral truce declared by Iraqi factions dealing with U.S. troops. The attacks have also been linked to U.S. support for Israel following attacks by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
The situation is complex, with social media accounts connected to Iran-aligned Iraqi militias announcing the death of a member in Tuesday’s battle against U.S. forces. This comes amid a war in Gaza that has drawn in various factions in Iran’s network of regional militias, known as the Axis of Resistance.
The United States has emphasized that its mission in Iraq involves advising and assisting local forces in the fight against a resurgence of Islamic State. However, escalating attacks against U.S. targets indicate a shift in the dynamics of the region.
Reporting by Timour Azhari in Baghdad, Phil Stewart and Ali Idrees in Washington; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Alexandra Hudson, Chizu Nomiyama, Mark Porter and Leslie Adler.