US Strikes Iraq In Response To Militia Attack

In response to a surprise Christmas Day attack, the U.S. military carried out precise retaliatory airstrikes against Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq. The drone attack came from the Iran-backed militia group Kataib Hezbollah on an Erbil Air Base in northern Iraq. The assault left three American service members injured, one critically.

The Christmas drone attack on Erbil marks a significant escalation in the ongoing tensions between the U.S. and Iranian-backed forces in the region. Joe Biden was reportedly briefed on the attack while vacationing at Camp David. Soon after that, Biden ordered strikes against three locations utilized by Kataib Hezbollah, focused primarily on unmanned drone facilities.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin labeled the airstrikes as “necessary and proportionate.” He added, “The President and I will not hesitate to take necessary action to defend the United States, our troops, and our interests.”

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) issued a statement indicating the counterstrikes were conducted in the early hours of Tuesday morning local time and successfully destroyed the targeted facilities. The strikes likely resulted in casualties among Kataib Hezbollah militants, while reports indicate the precision nature of the strikes avoided civilian casualties.

The most recent attacks by Iran-backed groups began after they issued threats to attack U.S. troops unless Israel ceased its military action in Gaza against the terrorist organization Hamas.

Iranian-backed militia groups began systematic attacks in the Middle East on October 17, shortly after the surprise attack on Israel by Hamas terrorists. The military operations have since posed a persistent threat to U.S. and allied forces in the region.

The Christmas attack and counterstrike could place Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani in a delicate situation. While the Iraqi government has already attempted a diplomatic approach that condemned both the militia attack and the U.S. response as infringements on Iraq’s sovereignty, the Iranian influence in several of its domestic political parties is putting al-Sudani under intense pressure.

This week’s developments highlight the ongoing challenges in Iraq, where U.S. troops continue their active mission against remnants of the Islamic State while providing military training to Iraqi forces.