The United States military has launched several air strikes on five facilities in Iraq and Syria belonging to a militia considered to be backed by Iran.
The Pentagon said Sunday, two days after an American contractor was killed in an attack against a US base in Kirkuk, Iraq.
The Assistant to the Secretary of Defense Jonathan Hoffman in a statement on the US attacks said: “In response to repeated Kata’ib Hizbollah (KH) attacks on Iraqi bases that host Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) coalition forces, US forces have conducted precision defensive strikes against five KH facilities in Iraq and Syria that will degrade KH’s ability to conduct future attacks against OIR coalition forces.”
“The five targets include three KH locations in Iraq and two in Syria. These locations included weapon storage facilities and command and control locations that KH uses to plan and execute attacks on OIR coalition forces,” read the statement.
“Recent KH strikes included a 30-plus rocket attack on an Iraqi base near Kirkuk that resulted in the death of a US citizen and injured four U.S. service members and two members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF),” Hoffman said.
He pointed out that the Kata’ib Hizbollah is a paramilitary force that has a strong linkage with Iran and said: “KH has a strong linkage with Iran’s Quds Force and has repeatedly received lethal aid and other support from Iran that it has used to attack OIR coalition forces.
“Iran and their KH proxy forces must cease their attacks on U.S. and coalition forces, and respect Iraq’s sovereignty, to prevent additional defensive actions by US forces,” he concluded.
According to a report on the Al-Arabiya website, on Monday, 41 Iranian fighters and 25 members of Hashd al-Shaabi were killed in the US attack to the Iran backed Kata’ib Hezbollah bases.
Earlier this month, US Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper asked Iraqi officials to respond to an uptick in attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq.
AFP reported on 13 December 2019 that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran of a “decisive” response if US interests are harmed in Iraq, after a series of rocket attacks on bases.
“We must… use this opportunity to remind Iran’s leaders that any attacks by them, or their proxies of any identity, that harm Americans, our allies or our interests will be answered with a decisive US response,” Pompeo said in a statement.
Some US officials welcomed the latest attacks against the Iran-backed militias bases in Iraq and Syria:
Lindsey Graham, US Senator and the Chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary:
Very glad to see the US strike back against Iran/Hezbollah proxies in response to the attack on American service members in Iraq.
The only language Iran understands is force. https://t.co/vwroKAgmpa
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) December 29, 2019
Tom Cotton, US Senator:
Today’s strikes against Iranian-backed groups in Iraq and Syria are a justified response to the killing of an American and the wounding of several American service members and Iraqis. Tehran must stop attacking Americans or else face even graver consequences. https://t.co/xGoSz7l0jT
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) December 29, 2019
John Bolton, Former US National Security Advisor:
U.S. strikes against Iranian-backed Shia militia groups in Iraq and Syria are overdue, but a good first step. The ayatollahs must pay a steep price for their ongoing support for terrorism.
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) December 30, 2019
Mark Dubowitz, the CEO of the think-tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD)
“It’s about time. Finally, after multiple attacks on U.S. bases and allies, Trump approved a military response against Iranian-allied militias in Iraq and Syria on the weekend. Trump has to be prepared to do more if the Iranians decide to escalate.” https://t.co/6UkNTHsGmj
— Mark Dubowitz (@mdubowitz) December 30, 2019