The White House warned that the U.S. might contemplate a navy response to the rocket attack that hit an airbase in western Iraq the place American and coalition troops are housed. A U.S. contractor died after not less than 10 rockets slammed into the bottom early Wednesday.
No one claimed accountability for the attack, the primary for the reason that U.S. struck Iran-aligned militia targets alongside the Iraq-Syria border final week.
“We are following that by way of proper now,” U.S. President Joe Biden advised reporters. “Thank God, nobody was killed by the rocket, however one particular person, a contractor, died of a coronary heart attack. But we’re figuring out who’s accountable and we’ll make judgments” a couple of response.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki prompt that the “calculated” U.S. airstrikes final week could possibly be a mannequin for a navy response. Those strikes had been in response to an attack on American forces in northern Iraq earlier in February.
“If we assess additional response is warranted, we’ll take motion once more in a way and time of our selecting,” Psaki stated.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby stated the U.S. contractor “suffered a cardiac episode whereas sheltering” from the attack and died shortly afterward. Kirby stated no service members had been injured and all are accounted for. British and Danish troops are also stationed on the base.
Fears of escalation
The U.S. airstrikes final week, which killed one member of the Iran-aligned militia, had stoked fears of one other cycle of tit-for-tat assaults as occurred greater than a 12 months in the past. Those assaults included the U.S. drone strike in January 2020 that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani in Baghdad and set off months of elevated troop ranges in the area.
The demise of the contractor Wednesday is heightening worries that the U.S. could possibly be drawn into one other interval of escalating assaults, complicating the Biden administration’s want to open talks with Iran over the 2015 nuclear deal.
The newest attack additionally comes two days earlier than Pope Francis is scheduled to go to Iraq regardless of issues about safety and the Corona Virus pandemic. The much-anticipated journey will embrace stops in Baghdad, southern Iraq and the northern metropolis of Irbil.
The rockets struck Ain al-Asad airbase in Anbar province early in the morning, U.S.-led coalition spokesperson Col. Wayne Marotto stated.
Kirby stated the rockets had been fired from east of the bottom, and that counter-rocket defensive methods had been used to defend forces on the base. He stated the U.S. cannot attribute accountability for the attack but, and that the extent of the injury was nonetheless being assessed.
It’s the identical base that Iran struck with a barrage of missiles in January of final 12 months in retaliation for the killing of Soleimani. Dozens of U.S. service members suffered concussions in that strike.
Rocket launch pad discovered
The Iraqi navy launched an announcement saying that Wednesday’s attack didn’t trigger important losses and that safety forces had discovered the launch pad used for the rockets — a truck. Video of the location exhibits a burning truck in a desert space.
British Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Hickey condemned the attack, saying it undermined the continuing struggle towards the Islamic State group.
“Coalition forces are in Iraq to struggle Daesh on the invitation of the Iraqi authorities,” he tweeted, utilizing the Arabic acronym for ISIS. “These terrorist assaults undermine the struggle towards Daesh and destabilize Iraq.”
Denmark stated coalition forces on the base had been serving to to deliver stability and safety to the nation.
“Despicable assaults towards Ain al-Asad base in Iraq are fully unacceptable,” Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod tweeted. The Danish armed forces stated two Danes who had been on the base on the time of the attack are unhurt.
Last week’s U.S. strike alongside the border was in response to a spate of rocket assaults that focused the American presence, together with one which killed a coalition contractor from the Philippines exterior the Irbil airport.
After that attack, the Pentagon stated the strike was a “proportionate navy response.”
Marotto, the coalition spokesperson, stated the Iraqi safety forces had been main an investigation into the attack.
Frequent rocket assaults in Baghdad focusing on the closely fortified Green Zone, which homes the U.S. Embassy, throughout Donald Trump’s presidency pissed off the administration, resulting in threats of embassy closure and escalatory strikes. Those assaults have elevated once more in current weeks since Biden took workplace following a lull in the course of the transition interval.
U.S. troops in Iraq considerably decreased their presence in the nation final 12 months and withdrew from a number of Iraqi bases to consolidate mainly in Ain al-Asad, Baghdad and Irbil.