March 30, 2020
Major U.S. newspapers say American troops are preparing for a confrontation with Iran’s Shiite allies in Iraq. They also say the Pentagon has been reviewing action plans for operations in the coming weeks.
The reports say the Pentagon has getting rid of Kataeb Hizballah, one of the major groups that make up the Hashd al-Sha’bi militia in Iraq on its agenda.
The Washington Post wrote on Saturday March 28 said that “Militia attacks on Americans in Iraq are becoming more audacious” and that”The U.S. is wrestling with how to respond.”
According to the Washington Post, the number of rocket attacks on Iraqi bases that host U.S. troops has been on the rise recently and most attacks have been taking place outrageously in broad daylight.
According to U.S. officials, they have been receiving reports about “imminent attacks” on U.S. military and diplomatic targets in Iraq on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, the New York Times wrote on Friday that the Pentagon has issued a confidential order for planning an operation against Iran-backed militias in Iraq.
U.S. political officers have left Baghdad and Erbil during the past days following the COVID-19 outbreak, however, some regional media outlets, including the IRGC-linked Tasnim news agency are suspicious of the move that coincided with moving around military forces in Iraq. The hardliner news agency says America is plotting against Iran’s allies in Iraq.
While Iran is watchfully following the situation, IRGC commander Hossein Salami has warned the United States against “Hollywood Style” operations in Iraq.
However, the NYT added that Pentagon’s order to plan for escalation in Iraq was met with a warning from a top U.S. commander in Iraq.
“The United States’ top commander in Iraq has warned that such a campaign could be bloody and counterproductive and risks war with Iran. In a blunt memo last week, the commander, Lt. Gen. Robert P. White, wrote that a new military campaign would also require thousands more American troops be sent to Iraq and divert resources from what has been the primary American military mission there: training Iraqi troops to combat the Islamic State,” The New York Times reported.
Other U.S. military commanders have also said there are possible dangers involved in carrying out the escalation order.
No group has so far assumed responsibility for attacks in recent weeks on Iraqi bases that host U.S. troops, but some senior US. official as well as other military observers are certain that the Shiite militia in Iraq are behind the strikes.
Following the attacks, U.S. sources said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien have been demanding a hard reaction against Iran, but President Donald Trump and some other U.S. officials supported limited action.
Kataeb Hizballah, which appears to have been behind the attacks on the Taji base in Iraq, carried out more rocket attacks on the base.
According to the Washington Post, although Defense Secretary Mark Esper was initially against hard attacks on Iran, during the following days he ordered the Pentagon to prepare a plan to destroy the Kataeb Hizballah (Hizballah Battalions).
Some 5,000 U.S. troops have been training the Iraqi military at several Iraqi bases, however, the coronavirus outbreak has recently hindered their activity in Iraq.
In the meantime, the Associated Press reported on March 29 that The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq withdrew on Sunday from K1 military base in the country’s north that nearly launched Washington into an open war with neighboring Iran.
Tensions between Iran and the United States further escalated in Iraq following the killing of Iran’s Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in early January.
The strike was followed by an Iranian missile attack on the Iraqi bases hosting hundreds of U.S. troops.
Both the Iranian government and its proxy militia in Iraq have insisted that they are still adamant to take revenge.
The Shiite militia Hashd al-Sha’bi has said that it will not remain silent if the United States’ troops attack the militia.
In the meantime, Iraq’s own political deadlock still continues as caretaker Prime Minister Adnan al-Zurfi has not been able to form a government partly because of the opposition by Iran-backed Shiite groups.