The United States has confirmed that its forces executed targeted strikes in Iraq on three facilities utilised by Iran-backed militias. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin described these strikes as “proportionate” and specifically aimed at the “Kataib Hezbollah militia group and other Iran-affiliated groups.” The precision attacks were carried out in direct response to previous assaults against the U.S. and coalition allies in Iraq and Syria.
While the U.S. emphasised the strategic nature of the strikes to dismantle and degrade ISIS, Iraqi officials, including National Security Adviser Qassem al-Aaraji, condemned the action as a “flagrant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.” Al-Aaraji argued that the U.S. should focus on urging a halt to the Israeli offensive in Gaza rather than targeting Iraqi national entities.
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran-backed groups escalated last week when a missile attack on the Al Asad airbase in western Iraq resulted in injuries to U.S. military personnel. The U.S. Central Command (CentCom) attributed the attack to an Iran-backed militia, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq.
In response to the recent strikes, Defence Secretary Austin commended the professionalism of U.S. military personnel and reiterated the commitment to protecting American interests. CentCom stated that the strikes targeted Kataib Hezbollah’s headquarters, storage, and training locations, emphasising the defensive nature of the action.
The ongoing dynamics involve a series of attacks and counterattacks, with the U.S. calling on the Iran-backed groups and their sponsors to cease hostilities. The broader context includes U.S. intervention against Houthi missile attacks in the Red Sea and Iranian military actions across the region.
While the U.S. asserts its defensive measures, concerns persist regarding the impact on regional stability and the delicate geopolitical balance. The U.S. commitment to preventing further escalation underscores the complexities involved in addressing the multifaceted challenges in the Middle East.