The White House has warned that US may consider military response after at least ten rockets hit an airbase housing US, other coalition troops in western Iraq. The attack comes after US carried out an airstrike against Iran-backed militia groups in Syria last week. A U.S. contractor died after at least 10 rockets slammed into the base. Heightened tensions with Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq could lead to more attacks, complicating the Biden administration’s desire to open talks with Iran over the 2015 nuclear deal, as well as the ongoing U.S. strategy to focus more attention on Asia.
The rockets struck Ain al-Asad airbase in Anbar province early in the morning. The rockets were fired from east of the base, and that counter-rocket defensive systems were used to defend forces at the base, while 10 rockets hit the base, It’s the same base that Iran struck with a barrage of missiles in January of last year in retaliation for the killing of Soleimani. Dozens of US service members suffered concussions in that strike. The Iraqi military released a statement saying that Wednesday’s attack did not cause significant losses and that security forces had found the launch pad used for the rockets a truck. Video of the site shows a burning truck in a desert area.
British Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Hickey condemned the attack, saying it undermined the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group. Coalition forces are in Iraq to fight Daesh at the invitation of the Iraqi government, he tweeted, using the Arabic acronym for IS. These terrorist attacks undermine the fight against Daesh and destabilize Iraq. Denmark said coalition forces at the base were helping to bring stability and security to the country.
Last week’s US strike along the border was in response to a spate of rocket attacks that targeted the American presence, including one that killed a coalition contractor from the Philippines outside the Irbil airport.After that attack, the Pentagon said the strike was a proportionate military response. Frequent rocket attacks in Baghdad targeting the heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses the US Embassy, during Donald Trump’s presidency frustrated the administration, leading to threats of embassy closure and escalatory strikes. Those attacks have increased again in recent weeks, since President Joe Biden took office, following a lull during the transition period.US troops in Iraq significantly decreased their presence in the country last year and withdrew from several Iraqi bases to consolidate chiefly in Ain al-Asad, Baghdad and Irbil.