Iraq condemns the US after it carried out air strikes on Iran-backed militias. The Iraqi government vehemently criticized the US airstrikes that targeted sites used by Iranian-backed groups within Iraq. A spokesperson for Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani denounced the strikes as a blatant violation of the country's sovereignty.
The United States claimed that its attacks were proportionate and aimed at "Iran-affiliated groups." The paramilitary Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) denounced the US action as "treacherous," reporting the death of one fighter and injuries to several others in strikes on their bases in al-Qaim, near the Syrian border in western Anbar province, and in Jurf al-Nasr, located in the central province of Babil.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin justified the strikes on three facilities belonging to the Kataib Hezbollah militia and other groups, stating they were a direct response to a series of escalating attacks against US and international forces in Iraq and Syria.
Major General Yehia Rasool, spokesperson for Prime Minister Sudani, expressed concern in a statement, characterizing the US actions as contributing to a reckless escalation.
This unacceptable act undermines years of co-operation... at a time when the region is already grappling with the danger of expanding conflict, the repercussions of the aggression on Gaza.- Major General Yehia Rasool
Furthermore, he emphasized that Iraq would consider the US operations as "acts of aggression" against its people on their soil. He appealed to the international community for assistance in restoring peace.
In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Iraq's national security adviser, Qassem al-Aaraji, expressed his belief that the US action would not contribute to bringing calm to the situation.
He added that "the US should pile on pressure for a halt to the Israeli offensive in Gaza rather than targeting and bombing the bases of an Iraqi national body".
The Al Asad air base in Iraq
In a ballistic missile and rocket assault on Iraq's Al Asad air base in Anbar province last week, four US military personnel sustained injuries. The Pentagon announced on Tuesday that they had resumed their duties and that there was no substantial damage to the facilities.
According to the US military's Central Command (Centcom), the attack on the air base, which houses American troops, was carried out by an Iran-backed militia. The responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group formed in late 2023 and comprising various Iran-affiliated militias operating within Iraq. This group has asserted its involvement in other recent attacks against US forces in the region.
Mr Austin said: "We do not seek to escalate conflict in the region. We are fully prepared to take further measures to protect our people and our facilities."
"We call on these groups and their Iranian sponsors to immediately cease these attacks."
In an independent announcement, Centcom stated that the strikes occurred at 00:15 local time on Wednesday (21:15 GMT Tuesday).
"These strikes targeted [Kataib Hezbollah] headquarters, storage, and training locations for rocket, missile, and one-way attack UAV capabilities," it added, without mentioning their locations.
Kataib Hezbollah, also known as the Brigades of the Party of God, stands as a formidable Iraqi Shia militia receiving substantial financial and military backing from Iran. The group is widely believed to maintain strong ties with Iran's Quds Force, the overseas operations division of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps.
Designated as a terrorist organization by the US in 2009, Kataib Hezbollah has been accused of orchestrating attacks against both US and Iraqi forces in Iraq on behalf of Iran, posing a threat to Iraq's stability.
The recent attack on Al Asad air base on Saturday followed a US drone strike in Baghdad earlier in the month, resulting in the death of a high-ranking Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) commander. Iran-aligned fighters have targeted US troops in Iraq and Syria numerous times since the conflict in Gaza began in October.
In response to missile and drone attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi movement, the US and UK have conducted strikes against them.
Iran has carried out a series of missile strikes in the past week, targeting locations in Syria, Iraq, and Pakistan, claiming connections to the Islamic State group, Israel, and a Baloch separatist group, respectively. Last Saturday, Iran accused Israel of conducting an airstrike in Damascus, Syria, resulting in the deaths of five senior members of Iran's security forces.