Iran-backed militias attack U.S. forces in western Iraq

Iraqi militias backed by Iran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles and rockets targeting Ain al-Assad airbase in western Iraq on Saturday evening. The Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have targeted U.S. forces with ballistic missiles since they have escalated attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) stated that the base’s air defense system intercepted most of the rockets, but some still managed to impact the area. As a result of the attack, an undisclosed number of U.S. personnel are being evaluated for traumatic brain injuries, and at least one Iraqi service member was injured.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a coalition of militias and front organizations supported by Iran claimed responsibility for the attack on Ain al-Assad.

In a statement, they asserted that the “Mujahideen of the Islamic Resistance in Iraq attacked the occupied Ain al-Asad base in western Iraq with a missile salvo.”

Reuters has reported that there have been over 140 attacks on American positions in Iraq and Syria since the beginning of the Hamas-Israel conflict on October 7. This recent strike on Ain al-Assad appears to be one of the most significant assaults on American troops since the escalation of hostilities. However, it is not the first time that Iraqi militias have fired a ballistic missile against American positions in the region.

On Nov. 6, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq published a statement warning that a “medium-range ballistic missile of the Aqsa-1 model” had entered service and was used against American positions in Iraq and Syria.

The Aqsa-1 missile, from the Islamic Resistance

Later on Nov. 21, 2023, Iranian-backed Iraqi militias fired a ballistic missile at Ain al-Assad airbase. In response, the U.S. military launched attacks on two sites south of Baghdad, resulting in the deaths of eight Hezbollah Brigades fighters, according to the militias.

Tehran is employing its extensive network of proxies and clients across the region to impose consequences on the United States due to its backing of Israel. The strategy used involves striking American positions in the region and attempting to impose a military blockade on the Red Sea via the Houthis based in Yemen. By pursuing this approach, Iran aims to exert pressure on the international community to compel Israel to accept a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, which is vital for the survival of Hamas, a crucial regional ally.

Joe Truzman is a research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal focused primarily on Palestinian militant groups and Hezbollah. 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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