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Muted tensions in Iraq between Americans and Shiite militias supported by Iran

(B2) For a week, Iraq has once again been the scene of an increase in tensions between the Americans and the Iraqi Shiites supported by Iran. An escalation that began with the death of three coalition soldiers in Iraq last week

(credit: twitter Operation Inherent resolve)

Attack on Camp Taji kills three

A " thirty rockets were launched from a truck against the Iraqi training base » on Camp Taji, near Kirkuk, which houses forces of the International Coalition against Daesh, Wednesday (March 11), indicated the American Minister of Defense, Mark Esper. The attack left five people dead.

Two Americans…

Faithful to their tradition of transparency, the Americans quickly confirmed the identity of the victims. The first (Juan Miguel Mendez Covarrubias, aged 27) belongs to the 227th Aviation Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Air Brigade (1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division), posthumously elevated to the rank of Army Specialist (corporal). The second (Sgt. Marshal D. Roberts, age 28) is an engineering man, Air Force, Oklahoma National Guard (Engineering Installation Squadron).

…and a Brit

The Briton (Brodie Gillon, 26) was Corporal Lance du Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry, a reserve regiment of light cavalry. A sports therapist, she joined the armed forces in September 2015 as a reservist in her specialty, combat medical technician. She had volunteered to be part of the deployment to Iraq of the Irish Guards battle group, the elite Northern Irish regiment, as specified by the british ministry of the defense.

Several injured

Fourteen soldiers were injured (Americans, British, Poles and contractors). On the Polish side, we are less talkative. All we know is that “ life [from wounded soldier] is not in danger » as confirmed by command Polish operational. " Polish soldiers are safe and the situation in the base is under constant control added Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak via Twitter.

Iran indicted

It is the predominantly Shiite and pro-Iranian militia that operates in Iraq, Kataeb Hezbollah, who " led the attack », Says the Pentagon. In addition, according to the Americans, the militia and by extension Iran, “ has been implicated in 12 rocket attacks against coalition forces in the past six months ».

A “defensive” response from the Americans

The United States is quick to respond. The next day, Thursday (March 12), they announced " strikes that are defensive, proportional, and in direct response to the threat posed by Iranian-backed Shiite militias “, justifies the US Department of Defense. Their objective : " five [Kataeb Hezbollah] weapons storage facilities, in order to significantly degrade their ability to carry out future attacks against Coalition forces ". The confrontation could have ended here. But apparently the militias continue to strike.

… but condemned by Iraq

Iraq condemns the [United States] action as a violation of national sovereignty “, said the presidency via Twitter. " This attack resulted in the martyrdom and injury of a number of members of the Iraqi security forces as well as innocent Iraqi civilians “, including three soldiers, two policemen and a civilian reports the BBC the next day.

Soon a new escalation?

Saturday (March 14), at 10:51 a.m. (Iraq time), “ at least 25 107 mm rockets » again touch the c& Taji, says the spokesperson for the Coalition against Daesh, Colonel Myles B. Caggins III via Twitter. Three coalition soldiers are injured as well as two Iraqis. On Monday (March 16), a new attack hit a training base south of Baghdad, where coalition troops and NATO trainers are present. This time, without victims. The USA does not respond, at least not in an apparent way. Latest attack: Tuesday (March 17), rockets hit Baghdad's 'green zone', landing 2km from the American embassy.

Commentary: renewed tension and stoicism

The area had been rather 'quiet' since the skirmishes which followed the death of the American Coalition contractor last December. He was killed in the attack on an Iraqi military base near Kirkuk. Already at that time, the US was accusing Kataeb Hezbollah. An action which had justified, in particular, the American strike on Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in January. This was followed by an escalation of tensions between Iran and the US for two weeks, before the situation finally calmed down.

Amazing stoicism

Unlike that period, this time, the Americans endure without really (over)reacting, at least in the immediate strong way. Which seems surprising when we know the hyper-sensitivity across the Atlantic to Iranian threats and in comparison with the escalation we experienced in January (1). The reason for this stoicism must undoubtedly be sought elsewhere. The coalition forces do not want to fall into the game of provocation and escalation. Which seems to be the desired goal. Too strong a response could justify new action, a more political one, aimed at not renewing the 'lease' of Western troops in Iraq. We will have to see how long... this stoicism will remain.

(Aurélie Pugnet, with NGV)

  1. Also read our file: No. 79. The European Union faced with the escalation of the conflict between Iran and the United States in Iraq

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