The daily beast
American troops in Iraq were crushed by 3 attacks in 3 days. Will Biden strike back?
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE For the third day in a row, US bases in Iraq have been the target of rocket attacks; no one has claimed responsibility for the latest wave of attacks, which has not been proven murderous so far, but the United States has consistently blamed Iran. The question now – as the attacks escalate – is what President Joe Biden is going to do about it? The Biden administration faces a Herculean task to deal with these incidents, in part because it was left with a plan from the last administration that called for retaliation whenever U.S. servicemen were killed. – backed activists in December, triggering a cycle of back-to-back violent clashes. Within days, the U.S. Embassy was hit by protests, U.S. forces killed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, and Iran fired ballistic missiles at the base. Al-Asad, where US troops were stationed, in January 2020 the Biden administration wants to avoid. And while Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has insisted that the United States will defend its forces in Iraq, its troops are stranded in a corner in weeks like this when rocket attacks hit three. American positions. Rockets were fired at Ayn al Asad air base in western Iraq on Tuesday, there was an attack on Balad air base north of Baghdad, which is home to US contractors on Monday, and a another at the American base at Baghdad airport on Sunday. doesn’t want to rush into a violent response, but he doesn’t want to look like he’s doing nothing. That’s why State Department and Pentagon officials often dodge questions about the specific groups responsible for a given attack and how they intend to respond. If they do not name the culprit, they have no responsibility to answer. In February, the United States launched airstrikes against Iranian-backed militias in Syria in response to a previous attack on the forces. American. balance that the United States is desperately trying to perfect: respond without escalating. By attacking Iranian-backed forces in Syria, the United States has not violated Iraqi sovereignty, which is a sensitive issue in Iraq and has led to calls for the United States to leave. US forces are in Iraq at the invitation of Baghdad to help fight Daesh. When the Trump administration hinted in December 2018 that the United States could pull out of Syria and use Iraq to “watch” Iran, many Iraqi politicians were stunned by the proposal. Daesh, a difficult truce has existed between the United States and Iran. When the deal with Iran was being worked out in 2015, US-led coalition forces came to Iraq to help train, equip, advise, and help Iraqis repel ISIS. . But in 2017, with Trump in power and ISIS largely defeated in Iraq, tensions began to grow between the United States and pro-Iranian politicians in Iraq. The Badr Organization, whose leader Hadi al-Amiri served alongside the Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war. in the 1980s, called on the United States to leave. Qais Khazali, a militia leader who had previously been detained by the United States at Camp Cropper, amplified threats against the USBy May 2019, rocket attacks – often using 107mm rockets linked to Iran – targeted the American Embassy in Baghdad, an American installation in Baghdad International Airport and American forces at Camp Taji and other bases. In July 2020, the attacks became weekly incidents, and the United States sent air defense, including patriots, to Iraq to protect against ballistic missile threats from Iran, which could mean the groups Pro-Iranians in Iraq are seeking some sort of maximum pressure campaign against the United States, similar to the maximum pressure the Trump administration exerts on Iran, which puts the Biden administration in a precarious position. Unlike Afghanistan – where the United States is withdrawing – it wants to preserve a presence in Iraq, and today American troops have been withdrawn and consolidated in places easier to defend, in part due to frequent attacks. . Consolidation means fewer potential targets and forces have left K-1, Q-West, Camp Taji and a range of other posts in 2020. Yet recent attacks over the past three months show just how vulnerable US forces are. , regardless of the consolidation. tactics they adopt. The message appears to be that Iranian-backed forces will continue to strike wherever US forces are located, whether it’s on the giant Assad base or in Erbil. He can hold Iran directly responsible, but that could lead to military escalation. He can also use the attacks as leverage to strike a new regional deal with Iran, forcing them to cease as part of the deal. Otherwise, he could demand that these groups be held accountable by the Iraqi authorities, but the track record of such investigations is grim. No militia have ever been indicted for these attacks by the government, which is often reluctant to prosecute these groups because of their ties to powerful political parties that have threatened the Iraqi president and prime minister in the past. in Syria to punish groups linked to Iran, or to do nothing at all. Doing nothing means letting pro-Iranian groups dictate the pace and escalation of the conflict. More airstrikes are likely to appear to act without sending a serious message to Iran. Small tit-for-tat attacks will not cause Iran to reconsider its policy of harassing US forces in Iraq. Before Trump, other American administrations preferred to err on the side of doing nothing, to put the United States on its back and give the upper hand to pro-Iranian groups. Are the attacks in Iraq a purely Iraqi problem, with a local solution? Or is the goal to stop the attacks in Tehran, requiring a regional approach that would resolve tensions from Yemen to Syria, from Lebanon to Israel? Either path presents the administration with challenges that three previous administrations have not been able to resolve. Register now! Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside delves deeper into the stories that matter to you. Learn more.