assault on Iraq’s US airbase destroys civilian contractors
Eight others were wounded in a blast intended to bring the first serious test of the Iran policy of Joe Biden
In the first serious test of Joe Biden’s Iran policy, a rocket attack on a US airbase in the Kurdish area of Iraq killed one civilian contractor and wounded eight other civilians.
A volley of approximately 14 rockets was fired late on Monday at the base near the main town of Erbil airport, which witnesses said appeared to come from the south on local television.
Three landed inside the base while others dropped on nearby residential areas, killing one individual identified as a foreign national by a US military spokesman, but not a US citizen, and injuring one US service member.
It was the deadliest attack in nearly a year to strike US-led coalition forces deployed to combat the Islamic State in Iraq, where tensions rose during the presidency of Donald Trump between the US, its Iraqi and Kurdish allies on one side, and Iran-aligned militias on the other.
Since 2019, Western military and diplomatic targets have been hit by tens of rockets and roadside bomb attacks that have been blamed by the US on pro-Iranian forces, but much of the violence has occurred in Baghdad.
A little-known Shia group calling itself Awliyaa al-Dam or Guardians of Blood, one of hundreds of small groups thought to be fronts for prominent pro-Iranian factions such as Kata’ib Hezbollah and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, announced the unusual assault on Erbil.
Trump had said that the death of US civilians would be a red line and cause US escalation in Iraq, making the attack on Monday an early test for the administration of Biden, which is trying to revive the nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers that Trump broke down in 2018.
“We are outraged by the rocket attack today,” State Secretary Antony Blinken said in a statement on Monday evening, vowing to “keep those responsible accountable.”
Awliyaa al-Dam said on Tuesday morning that it will carry out further attacks on US troops.
According to the SITE Intelligence Group, an NGO that monitors online activity of armed groups, “The American occupation will not be safe from our strikes in any inch of the homeland, even in Kurdistan, where we promise we will carry out other qualitative operations,” the group’s statement said.