Third Attack on US Led Coalition Base in Iraq, Despite COVID 19 Spread
After two attacks on Taji Base North of Baghdad, now a third south of the Iraqi capital raises alarm.
In a third attack in a week two rockets struck a training base south of Baghdad where US-led coalition troops and NATO trainers are present.
The attack, targeted the Besmaya base south of Baghdad.
Spanish forces linked to the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), as well as NATO training forces, are present in Besmaya as per Al Jazeera.
”You cannot attack and wound American service members and get away with it, we will hold them to account,” Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper had said during a briefing last week after the first attack on Camp Taji
”In response to this attack on an Iraqi base that hosts coalition forces supporting the Iraqi fight against ISIS, we carried out precision defensive strikes to degrade and destroy advanced conventional weapons that have been provided to Kataeb Hezbollah by their Iranian backers,” Centcom Commander Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie said during a Pentagon briefing on 14 March after having attacked the Iraqi militia, Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces).
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned Iraq that the US would retaliate “as necessary” against any new assaults on Americans just a day prior to the Besmaya strike.
So what response is now likely from Iraq remains to be seen as the cycle of rocket attacks and air strikes is continuing.
Iran has vowed to coerce the Americans to withdraw from the US bases in Iraq in retaliation to the killing of Qasem Soleimani commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on 03 January this year in a US drone strike at Baghdad airport.
The Iraqi parliament citing violation of sovereign rights of the State had moved a non binding resolution for withdrawal of American troops and bases from the country.
The US has not responded to the demand and it is anticipated that Iran supported militia are now targeting bases with the presence of Americans and NATO coalition forces deployed to provide training and advisory assistance to the Iraqi forces as well as conduct operations against the ISIS.
Significantly the escalation is taking place after a visit by the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani visited Iran and has apparently taken on the role of coordination with the Iraqi militia previously the task of Soleimani.
Iran is apparently continuing with the strategy of coercion despite facing a major epidemic emergency with the COVID 19 having affected thousands of citizens.
Iranian Mehr News Agency reported that as of 17 March, the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak, officially known as COVID-19, in Iran has risen to 988 with 16,169 confirmed cases.
Iran’s Health Ministry Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said that 1,178 more cases have tested positive with the virus in the past 24 hours, increasing the total number of infections in Iran to 16,169.
Some 5,389 patients infected by the new coronavirus have so far recovered from the disease,
Al Jazeera has reported that since late October, there have been 24 rocket attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad or bases in Iraq. Two American soldiers and one UK soldier has been killed and at least 14 have been seriously injured in the rocket attacks in March this year.
Kataeb Hezbollah or Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces) state-sponsored military network in Iraq supported by Iran is said to be behind these attacks.
Iraq has long feared it would get caught in the spiralling tensions between Iran and the US, its two main allies.