Attacks on US sites have escalated in recent hours harmoniously between pro-Iranian militias in Syria and Iraq. Thursday, the Iraqi army announced that three rockets were fired at the US embassy in Iraq in Baghdad, hours after other US bases in western Iraq and Syria were also bombed.
“These actions which do not want good for this country, will be strongly confronted by the security services to reveal who did these actions that endanger the lives of citizens, as well as targeting foreign diplomatic missions,” the Iraqi army stressed.
The embassy itself was not hit, the army said, but three nearby places in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone were.
In 24 hours, pro-Iranian militias targeted Erbil International Airport with a drone and bombed about 14 Grad missiles at the Ain al-Assad base, which includes US soldiers in Anbar province, slightly injuring two people. The rocket attacks coincided with the Syrian Democratic Force’s announcement that they had responded to drone attacks in the Omar field area, the largest base of the Washington-led international coalition in Syria, in the second such attack in days.
In turn, the Pentagon announced that a drone had been shot down in eastern Syria, and there were no casualties among the US military. Meanwhile, Iraqi army officials confirmed that the frequency of missile and drone attacks on bases hosting US forces in the recent period is unprecedented.
It is noteworthy that since the beginning of this year, pro-Iranian factions have targeted about 50 US military sites in Iraq, notably the US Embassy in Baghdad, military bases comprising Americans, and the airports of Baghdad and Erbil. The recent use of drones has been a concern for the coalition because these flying devices can escape US defenses.
Militias and the second generation..
The attacks, whose perpetrators were described by the government as “terrorists and enemies of the nation,” coincided with the visit of Hussein Taeb, head of intelligence of the IRGC, to Iraq. US Defense Department sources have suggested that the attacks were linked to Iranian-backed factions, asserting that they would reserve the right to respond.
Although the threat of escalation against US forces in Iraq was explicitly and publicly issued by Abu Ala’ al-Wala’i, commander of Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada militia, after the killing of pro-Iranian militia members in US attacks on the Iraqi-Syrian border last month, an unknown faction claimed responsibility for the missile attack on Ain al-Assad. This is in order to raise the responsibility of the famous militias such as the Iraqi Hezbollah and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and spare them the consequences that they belong to the PMF, which is affiliated nominally with the Iraqi regular forces.
The United States had earlier informed the UN Security Council that it had launched air strikes on Iranian-backed militias in Syria and Iraq to prevent militants and Tehran from carrying out or supporting further attacks on US forces or facilities. While US President Joe Biden confirmed Washington’s recent military operation on the PMF Headquarters on the border with Syria is to deter Iran.
“Our mujahedeen were able to target the US-occupied Ain al-Assad base in Anbar province with 30 Grad missiles, and the targets were hit with high accuracy,” the faction, Revenge of al-Muhandis Brigade, said on Wednesday.
“We renew our call for brutal occupation that we will force you to leave our land defeated and broken,” the faction added.
The militia named after Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of the PMF. It warned via Telegram on the same day that the revenge for Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the IRGC, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were killed in a US air strike at the Baghdad Airport in January 2020, would not end.
In turn, informed sources have confirmed to the media, that the differences that prevented the agreement on the conditional truce focused on the possibility of implicating all the faction leaders in an open and uncalculated confrontation with the US forces.
The sources also have indicated that a number of leaders received warnings against repeating the scenario of killing Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, if the conflict moves into open war.
“The political and security crisis in Iraq has produced two currents within the armed groups, the first is traditional and tends to maneuver and pressure, while the second is adventurous and fierce, includes the second generation’s leaders of PMF, and tends to show strength by attacks,” the sources say.
“The recent attacks were carried out by factions that have direct coordination with the Lebanese Hezbollah, which facilitated the transfer of the Houthi method of using explosive-laden drones to the Iraqi arena by training elite groups in Lebanon and Tehran.”
Iranian provocation and maneuver.
The US Department of Defense, the Pentagon, has announced that Iranian militias in Iraq intentionally provoke the Americans. The ministry has indicated that it does not seek escalation, and any response will be coordinated with the government of Iraq as well as the coalition, and it will take the necessary steps to respond to the attacks against its forces in Iraq.
Major General Yahya Rasoul, spokesperson for the Commander-in-Chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces, has condemned the bombing of Erbil Airport and Ain Al-Assad Air Base, as it represented a violation of all laws, and an assault on the state’s prestige and its international obligations.
“Once again, the enemies of Iraq are targeting the country’s security, and the safety of Iraqis through a new terrorist attack on Erbil Airport and the Ain al-Assad camp of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, before that targeting the headquarters of diplomatic missions that are under the protection of the state; Which represents a flagrant violation of all laws, and an assault on the state’s prestige and its international obligations.”
Jenin Plasschaert, head of the UN mission in Iraq, on Wednesday described the ongoing attacks, including targeting Erbil airport, as an insult to the law.
“Such actions push Iraq towards the unknown, the Iraqi people may pay a heavy price for it, and the legitimacy of the state should not be threatened by the cruel armed actors,” she said.
Hamdi Malik, an associate fellow at the Washington Institute and a specialist on Iraq’s Shi’ite militias, said the attacks were part of a coordinated escalation by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq.
“It seems to me they have the green light from Iran to escalate, especially given that the nuclear negotiations are not going well,” Malik says.
” But at the same time, they do not want to escalate beyond a certain point – they are more vulnerable to US air strikes than they used to be – and they don’t want to overcomplicate the negotiations Iran is holding with the West,” he adds.
It is noteworthy that Tehran has denied supporting attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria and condemned US air strikes on Iranian-backed groups. At a time when international hopes are still hanging on a seventh round of indirect nuclear negotiations between the United States and Iran aimed at bringing the two countries into compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement.