7 July 2021 — Moon of Alabama
As we wrote eight days ago:
On Sunday the U.S.bombed three positions of Iraqi Popular Mobilization Force at the Syrian-Iraqi border.
The U.S. had no right to do so. The legal reasoning the Biden administration provided for the attack is nonsense. As is the claimed rationale of establishing ‘deterrence’ against further attacks on U.S. troops by this or that Iraqi militia group. The last strike in that area in February was supposed to have fulfilled the same purpose but obviously did not deter anything. Sunday’s strike was immediately responded to with missiles fired against a U.S. position in Syria. More such incidents will follow.
It did not take long until the failure of the claimed deterrence became obvious:
Iranian-backed Iraqi militias launched several rocket and drone barrages on facilities hosting American forces in Iraq and Syria on Wednesday, just nine days after deadly United States airstrikes on the armed groups that were meant to deter such attacks.
US and local media outlets reported attacks on the Ain al-Assad air base in western Iraq, another facility in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil overnight and another attack on an oil field where American forces are positioned in northeast Syria.
At least two people suffered minor injuries after 14 rockets struck the massive military base at Ain al-Assad shortly after noon local time, a US official said.
Attacks on US facilities by Iranian-backed militia groups appear to be accelerating following the 28 June air strikes, which were in response to continuing attacks on American facilities in Iraq. At least four militiamen were killed in the US airstrikes, prompting raucous funerals and demands for revenge.
Ain al-Assad was the target of a rocket attack on Monday, with no casualties. Late Tuesday an airport housing US troops in northern Iraq was also hit in a drone attack that caused no injuries.
Syrian state media reported on Wednesday that al-Omar oil field hosting US forces in the country’s northeast province of Deir Azzour was also hit with mortars.
Over the last weeks there were also at least five mine attacks on private contractor convoys which supply the U.S. forces in Iraq.
One Iraqi militia leader promised even bigger attacks:
The leader of an Iran-backed Iraqi militia has vowed to retaliate against America for the deaths of four of his men in a U.S. airstrike along the Iraq-Syria border last month, saying it will be
a military operation everyone will talk about
“We want an operation that befits those martyrs,” [Abu Alaa al-Walae, commander of Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada,] said referring to the four fighters killed in late June. “Even if it comes late, time is not important.”
“We want it to be an operation in which everyone says they have taken revenge on the Americans,” al-Walae said. “It will be a qualitative operation (that could come) from the air, the sea, along Iraq’s border, in the region or anywhere. It’s an open war.”
Al-Walae spoke in an office decorated with a poster of Soleimani. On a table next to him, a framed photo shows al-Walae standing next to Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.
As Daniel Larison notes:
Now the leader of an Iraqi militia is threatening reprisals for the reprisal attack that the U.S. carried out against his men.
As long as the Biden administration is intent on responding to any Iraqi militia attack with one of their own, you have a recipe for endless tit-for-tat strikes that build towards a larger conflict.
If the U.S. will respond to any attack the same way no matter whether it is lethal or not, that will give Iraqi militias an incentive to carry out lethal attacks. The Biden administration is recklessly putting U.S. forces in Iraq in greater danger while pretending to be doing the opposite.
All of this raises the obvious question: why are U.S. forces still in Iraq in 2021? ..
The U.S. has no reason to continue killing Iraqis, and the cause of the current conflict is the continued U.S. military presence in a country where we are no longer wanted. The U.S. is “defending” itself against the security forces of the government that it claims to support because its military presence is no longer welcome and it has repeatedly violated the sovereignty of the host country.
The Biden administration has plans to continue to its violation of Iraq’s sovereignty:
The 4th Infantry Division’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team from Fort Carson, Colorado, will deploy approximately 1,800 personnel this summer to Iraq to support Operation Inherent Resolve.
The Stryker unit will replace the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, from the Louisiana National Guard. Inherent Resolve is the named mission to defeat the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
Major combat operations ended when ISIS lost its territorial caliphate in 2019, but the group remains active as an insurgency. Tensions between the United States and Iran-backed militias in the region also continue to garner headlines.
There will be more headlines to garner and more casualties as long as there are U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.