In addition to the earlier attacks on military bases, rockets were launched at the most recently identified location hosting US troops in Iraq. The United States’ assault on Iranian-backed rebels in Syria seemed to have ended all hopes that a military response to these other attacks would avert further ones.
Al-Asad airbase in western Iraq was hit by Grad-type rockets at 7:20 AM local time, when Col. Wayne Marotto, a spokesman for the US-led anti-ISIS alliance, confirmed the strike. In the early morning hours of Tuesday, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby issued a press release, saying only one American civilian contractor and no US soldiers had suffered an injury in the strike but that a civilian contractor had died of a heart arrest during a rocket attack.
Although no one party has stepped forward to claim blame for the assaults, their appearance is strikingly similar to the frequent rocket attacks conducted by Iranian-backed Shia militias against American and allied forces in Iraq.
Multiple news sources announced that the launchpad was discovered outside the neighbouring city of al-Baghdadi in Anbar province, and CNN cited an unofficial collective on Telegram, which had yet to validate the weapon’s existence, in saying that unconfirmed photographs of the weapon had been released. This directly corresponds to Kirby’s Wednesday morning assertion, in which he said that the rockets were launched from the east of the sprawling base.
On January 1, 2020, in reaction to the Trump administration’s assassination of the top commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the Iranians attacked the same base and inflicted hundreds of casualties on US soldiers.
Six days after the US military was given permission to bomb nine sites used by Iran-backed militias in Syria to smuggle arms, another terrorist attempt occurred in Washington, D.C. the stated aim of Biden’s staff was to strike back at the Iraqis for launching rockets and mortars at US military members and embassy employees in Erbil and Baghdad over the past few weeks, killing a Filipino worker and injuring US troops.
Kirby made it clear to the media at the time that “we wanted to send a clear warning to these terrorists: It would have severe consequences if you go after our civilians and services in Iraq or those of our Iraqi allies and Iraqi partners.”
Biden himself wrote to congressional leaders in a Saturday letter that “I ordered this military operation to shield and support our troops and our allies from the subsequent assaults and to prevent potential ones as well.”
It seems as if the administration’s attempts to communicate intimidation did not have the desired effect.
Any analysts believe that it is just a matter of time until the tit-for-tat spiral spins out of control and becomes worse. There is even a possibility of escalation.
This creates a big challenge for the Biden administration, which is both attempting to organise America’s return to the Iran nuclear deal and at the same time trying to manage America’s stance on that agreement. In order for it to happen, Washington and Tehran must commit to a negotiating arrangement whereby the US agrees to remove sanctions on Iran and Iran ends its violations of the pact’s terms on nuclear production.
It is very difficult to arrive at a compromise when all is reasonable. It is more difficult as both parties are engaged in attacks on each other.