Military bases that are holding U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria were hit with three separate attacks on Wednesday, marking the third straight day that Iran-aligned paramilitary groups targeted American forces in the Middle East.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the attacks began on Monday as militias marked the second anniversary of the U.S. strike that killed senior Iranian general Qassem Soleimani back in January of 2020. While nobody has been killed and there hasn’t been major damage in the attacks so far, the fact that they are continuing raises the risk of this situation escalating.
“The coalition reserves the right to defend itself and partner forces against any threat,” said Maj. Gen. John W. Brennan Jr., the commander of the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq and Syria.
Iraqi officials said that early Wednesday morning, a rocket struck an Iraqi military base used by U.S. forces near Baghdad’s international airport. Officials then found a 240 mm rocket and a launcher that had yet to be fired in a neighborhood located not far from the airport.
Later that day, five rockets were fired near Ayn al-Assad, an Iraqi military base that hosts U.S. forces. Thankfully, these rockets ended up landing far from the base, with the nearest one coming over one mile away. A militia known as Saraya Qasem al-Jabarin claimed responsibility for this attack on Wednesday night, with Western and Iraqi officials saying that major Iran-backed militias have been known to use smaller front groups to claim attacks in the past.
The U.S. currently has around 2,500 soldiers in Iraq and 900 in Syria to help local forces in their quest to suppress the Islamic State, which took over control of much of both countries in 2014. At the end of 2021, the U.S. ended its combat role in Iraq in the fight against the Islamic State per an agreement that was made with the Iraqi government. However, since most U.S. soldiers in Iraq were already engaged in training and support roles, they have stayed in the country.
The leader of an Iran-aligned militia known as Harakat al-Nujaba gave a speech in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on Tuesday in which he pledged to continue the fight to expel American forces from the country.
“There will be no new truce and there is no other way except using military force to expel them from the country in coffins,” said Akram al-Kaabi, the militia leader.