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Two attacks, less than 12 hours apart, target US forces in Iraq

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A day after rumors of an attack on US forces in Syria by pro-Iran militias, the militias made good on their threats with two rounds of attacks on the US in Iraq. During the afternoon, rockets targeted Al-Asad base and by the evening, drones were reported to have targeted an area near the US embassy. 

The attack on Al-Asad base occurred in the afternoon in a rare daylight attack. Pro-Iran militias have attacked US facilities increasingly since 2019, killing a contractor in December 2019 and several members of the US-led coalition in early 2020. The US has retaliated with airstrikes. So far this year there have been some 50 attacks on the US in Iraq, often targeting either Baghdad, Al-Asad base or Erbil. The pro-Iran militias, most linked to Kataib Hezbollah, have increasingly used drones. This is thought to be at least the 11th incident with drones used.

The US has only a few facilities in Iraq where forces are concentrated, including Al-Asad base, Union III near the embassy, a site at the airport and a site at Erbil airport. In April a drone used by pro-Iran militias targeted a secret CIA hangar in Erbil. In late June drones targeted an area near the new US consulate. In retaliation US president Joe Biden ordered airstrikes against pro-Iran units in Syria. The pro-Iran militias in Syria, linked to the IRGC and Iraq then targeted US forces at Omar oil field a week ago. On July 4 rumors said the pro-Iran groups again targeted the US in Syria. The US-led Coalition denied the attack but pro-Iran media and channels linked to the IRGC said the attack happened.

Now, on July 5, two attacks have occurred in Iraq. The attack on Al-Asad base initially was reported to involve rockets, perhaps the 107mm that most Iran groups favor using. The US-led Coalition said “initial report: At approx. 2:45 p.m. local time, Ain Al-Assad Air Base was attacked by three rockets. The rockets landed on the base perimeter. There are no injuries and damage is being assessed.”  

Then after midnight, but less than 12 hours after the first attack sirens were triggered at the US embassy area and Union III facility near the embassy. C-RAM, which is a kind of munition used to down mortars, was used to try to stop the drone threat. Reports today also showcased a drone that was used several days ago and which set off alarms near the US embassy. It was a quadcopter. Kataib Hezbollah also reportedly released an image showing underground missile silos. 

Attacks on US forces in Iraq are rapidly increasing. This coincides with other issues in the region, such as tensions in Syria, and mysterious fires in Iran, electrical outages in Iran, discussions over a return to the Iran deal and also Israel-Iran tensions.  

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