A BBC correspondent in the region is describing “multiple strikes across Iran-backed groups’ facilities” which include “logistics and drone warehouses.”
Early reports suggest the attack includes “large amounts of munitions” on multiple Iraqi Shia militia targets. Moments after initial reports on social media US defense offcials confirmed that “airstrikes are underway against Iran-backed militia group that hit Iraq base,” according to the Associated Press.
Bombing #Iran-backed paramilitary group positions around #Karbala and #Salahaddin is significant. This is the largest amount of force I’ve seen against Hashd (#PMF) so far. These areas are considered “No fly zones” for #Coalition. Jets may have come from #UAE or #Kuwait
As if the Mideast region and the world for that matter needs another crisis to worry about, this could be the start of the kind of tit-for-tat between the US and Iran which paved the way for the US killing by drone of IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani on January 3rd. Since then, the two have been on a war footing.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper hours ago warned the US would hold the groups behind Wednesday’s attack on Taji base accountable. “You don’t get to shoot at our bases and kill and wound Americans and get away with it,” he said earlier.
According to Fox News security correspondent Jennifer Griffin:
The US response will be “proportional” targeting multiple locations used by Iranian backed Shia militias across Iraq and along Syrian border.
Will be limited to airstrikes: source. Will degrade Shia militia/ Kata’eb Hezbollah ability to strike: US military source.
The US has said Kata’eb Hezbollah is responsible, given it’s “the only group known to have previously conducted an indirect fire attack of this scale against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq.” The major attack had utilized at least 15 Soviet-era rocket artillery and further left a dozen wounded.
A top Pentagon general also said earlier the Iran-backed militias were to blame and that the US can identify the culprit with a “high degree of certainty”.
Tension with Iran
The strikes come months after the US and Iran were brought to the brink of war in early January.
While the situation appeared to deescalate in the weeks following Iran’s retaliatory strike on a base housing US troops in Iraq, tensions have flared up once again between Tehran and Washington.
There have been multiple rocket attacks in Iraq in recent weeks, but Wednesday’s was the first to cause a US death since December, when a US contractor was killed.
That death prompted retaliatory US airstrikes against Iranian-backed militia targets in Iraq and Syria. Trump administration officials pointed to the contractor’s death as their justification for air strikes that killed Iran’s second most powerful leader, Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
The US was reviewing options as to how to respond, the US Defense secretary and top US general said earlier on Thursday.
“Yesterday’s attack by Iranian backed Shia militia groups consisted of multiple indirect fires that originated from a stationary platform and was clearly targeting coalition and partner forces on Camp Taji,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told reporters at the Pentagon while pledging that the US would take action to hold the attackers accountable.
“We’re going to take this one step at a time. But we’ve got to hold the perpetrators accountable. You don’t get to shoot at our bases and kill and wound Americans and get away with it,” Esper said.
President Donald Trump told reporters Thursday that he had been working on what to do about the attack on Wednesday night.
“They’ve sent a lot of rockets now. It hasn’t been fully determined it was Iran,” Trump said.
He added, “It was a rebel group, but most likely it looks like it could be backed by Iran.”
Matthew 24:6-7 New King James Version (NKJV)
6 And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.