President Joe Biden has authorized retaliatory airstrikes against an Iranian-aligned group subsequent to a drone attack in northern Iraq that left three U.S. service members injured.
The targeted militia, Kataib Hezbollah, and affiliated groups claimed responsibility for the attack, utilizing a one-way attack drone. The strikes, carried out early Tuesday, resulted in the destruction of militia facilities and purported casualties among Kataib Hezbollah militants.
The incident unfolded on Christmas Day, prompting swift action from President Biden, who received immediate briefings from White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan. The retaliatory decision was made after consultation with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and a comprehensive review of options by Biden’s national security team.
The U.S. strikes occurred amid heightened tensions in the region, with fears of spillover from the Israel-Hamas conflict. Simultaneously, Iran reported the death of one of its top generals, Razi Mousavi, in a separate Israeli strike near Damascus. Mousavi had been a close associate of the late Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq in January 2020.
The Biden administration, cautious about regional escalation, has faced criticism for its measured response to previous attacks on American forces. The latest incident adds to a series of provocations, with Iranian-backed militias launching over 100 attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria since the onset of the Israel-Hamas war.
The delicate geopolitical situation is further complicated by the stance of Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, who condemned both the militia attack and the U.S. retaliation. The Iraqi government, backed by a coalition of Iranian-supported parties, faces challenges in navigating its relationship with militias operating independently, despite being officially under the command of the Iraqi army.
As tensions persist, the Biden administration maintains its commitment to protecting American personnel while carefully assessing further measures. The evolving situation underscores the intricate diplomatic challenges in the region, with Iraq caught between condemning attacks on its sovereignty and objecting to perceived hostilities in U.S. retaliatory actions.