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May 19, 2024

US Strike in Iraq Raises Tensions and Questions Over Future Relations

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Jan 5, 2024

The United States conducted an airstrike in Baghdad, Iraq on January 4th, targeting facilities affiliated with Iran-backed militias. The strike killed at least 4 militia members and has raised tensions between the US, Iran, and Iraqi leadership. There are questions over the future of US-Iraqi relations and the ongoing mission against ISIS.

Strike Takes Out Senior militia Leader

The US has stated that the airstrike specifically targeted Sayyid Mohammed al-Hashemi, a senior leader in the Iran-backed militia group Kataib Imam Ali. Al-Hashemi was considered an important figure who helped coordinate attacks against US and coalition forces in Iraq.

“At President Biden’s direction, US military forces earlier this evening conducted defensive precision airstrikes against facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups…The targets were selected because these facilities are utilized by Iran-backed militias that are engaged in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacks against US personnel and facilities in Iraq,” said National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson. [1]

The strike comes after months of attacks against US forces in Iraq by Iran-backed groups utilizing suicide drones and rockets. Tensions have been escalating, and the US has vowed to respond to the attacks. This strike represents an escalation and direct attack by the US against the militias.

Furious Condemnation by Iraqi Leadership

Iraqi leadership, including Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, have strongly condemned the US attack. They view it as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty. Pro-Iran politicians in the Iraqi government called it “state terrorism” and “a crime”.

Iraqi caretaker Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani said he strongly condemns “the US attack on several sites in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, including areas inside and outside the heavily fortified Green Zone.” [2]

“We stress the need for all sides to remain calm and show restraint in deeds and words to avoid an escalation, and work at once to quell tensions through political dialogue,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement. [3]

The condemnation has united Iraqi politicians across the spectrum against the US actions. There are concerns this could imperil the relationship and joint mission against ISIS.

Iraq Announces End of US-led Coalition Presence

In response to the strike, Iraqi caretaker Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani announced that Iraq has decided to end the presence of the US-led coalition forces that have been fighting ISIS in the country since 2014.

“We stress the need for all sides to remain calm and show restraint in deeds and words to avoid an escalation, and work at once to quell tensions through political dialogue,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement. [4]

This raises uncertainty around the future of this longstanding military partnership and joint counterterrorism efforts. The US-led coalition has played a key role in training Iraqi forces and conducting airstrikes against ISIS targets. Ending this mission could negatively impact these counter-ISIS operations.

Year Key Events
2014 ISIS seized large areas of northern and western Iraq. US launched Operation Inherent Resolve to defeat ISIS and support Iraqi forces
2017 Iraq declared victory over ISIS after recapturing almost all lost territory
2020-Present ISIS reverts to insurgency tactics with ongoing attacks
2024 Iraq announces end of US-led coalition presence after strike kills militia leader

What’s Next? Expect Iranian Response

Iran has pledged to retaliate for the death of senior militia leader al-Hashemi. As a close ally and patron of the Iraqi militias, Iran is expected to respond, either directly or through proxy forces. This raises the potential for tit-for-tat escalations or a broader regional conflict.

“Undoubtedly, the Islamic Republic of Iran will not leave this crime unanswered, and the criminals will certainly be punished,” Esmail Ghaani, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ foreign operations arm, the Quds Force. [5]

One possibility is more attacks against US forces in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-backed militias. There are still around 2,000 US troops in Iraq focused on the counter-ISIS mission who could be targeted. [6] Iran could also target US allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel to expand the conflict throughout the region. Much will depend on how Iran views its strategic interests and calculates the potential US responses.

Uncertain Future for US Presence and Cooperation

This recent strike and backlash raise uncertainty around the future US presence and operations in Iraq. After investing billions of dollars and nearly 20 years supporting Iraqi forces against insurgents and terrorists, the partnership now faces its greatest test.

Without protections and support from the Iraqi government, the small remaining US force focused on counterterrorism may be difficult to sustain. Their withdrawal could negatively impact the fight against ISIS resurgence and cede influence in Iraq to Iran. Much depends on intensive diplomatic efforts in the coming weeks to salvage relations. Either way, the US strike and its fallout mark a pivotal moment for US-Iraqi cooperation.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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