Iran-backed militias continue to attack U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria

Iran backed militias launched at least four attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria since the U.S. military attempted to reestablish deterrence by striking at Iranian weapons storage sites in Syria on Oct. 27. The militia assaults threaten to pull the U.S. into a regional war as Israel prepares to enter Gaza and engage in ground operations to destroy Hamas and allied terror groups.

The Iraqi and Syrian militias, which have been established by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and were formed to battle U.S. forces in Iraq as well as the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and a variety of Syrian rebel groups have been ramping up the pressure on the U.S. military in the wake of Hamas’ deadly assault on southern Israel on Oct. 7. The militias have launched at least 24 strikes, primarily with drones, rockets, and mortars on U.S. military bases in Iraq and Syria since Oct. 17, according to Carla Babb at Voice of America.

On Oct. 27, the U.S. military attacked “weapons and ammunition storage areas that were connected to the IRGC” in eastern Syria, the U.S. military said. The purpose of the attacks was to deter Iran from encouraging the militias to launch more strikes. In the process, the U.S. announced that it didn’t seek escalation, which is likely to be perceived by Iran and its proxies as weakness [See LWJ Report, U.S. military strikes Iranian assets in Syria after weeks of militia attacks].

One assault took place today at the Ain Al Assad Air Base in Anbar Province in Iraq. Two of the militia attacks took place on Oct. 29 at U.S. bases in Al-Shadadi in Hasaka Province and the Omar Oil Field in Deir el-Zor Province, both in Syria. The other two strikes took place on Oct. 27, after the U.S. military announced its assaults on the IRGC depots. One of the attacks targeted the Omar Oil Field, while the other at the Ain Al Assad Air Base.

Most of the strikes have been claimed by a little known group called the Islamic Resistance in Iraq (IRI). The IRI was established in 2020 to serve as a clearinghouse for smaller Iran-backed militias, which themselves are offshoots or fronts of more established, larger militias such as Hezbollah Brigades, Asaib Ahl-al Haq, Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba, and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada. The IRI adds another layer of plausible deniability for Iran, which directs and supports these proxy militias behind the scenes.

The U.S. government is in a difficult situation with its bases in Iraq and Syria, which have been established to battle the Islamic State. Some of the bases are in remote locations and are sparsely manned. If the militias, many of which are battle-hardened by years of combat, muster their forces, some of these bases could be in danger of being overrun.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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