In a recent development in the ongoing tensions between the United States and Iran-backed militias in Iraq, a U.S. drone strike conducted in Baghdad has resulted in the death of two high-ranking commanders of Kataib Hezbollah. The strike, approved by President Joe Biden, targeted the commander responsible for orchestrating attacks on American forces in the region. This move marks a significant escalation in the U.S. efforts to deter attacks on its personnel stationed in Iraq.
The Pentagon confirmed that the targeted individual, whose identity was not disclosed by U.S. officials but identified as Abu Baqir al-Saadi in Iraqi media reports, played a central role in planning and executing attacks against American forces. This strike comes in the wake of increased hostilities between Iranian-backed militias and U.S. forces, particularly following a deadly strike on a U.S. base in Jordan last week, which claimed the lives of three Americans.
Kataib Hezbollah, acknowledging the U.S. strike, issued a statement reaffirming its commitment to armed struggle, while also hinting at possible retaliation. “This calls for steadfastness on the path of jihad,” the group declared, indicating its readiness to respond decisively to what it perceives as aggression against its members and interests.
The group had said that it was suspending attacks on American troops to avoid embarrassing Iraqi government after the Jan. 28 strike in Jordan.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani condemned the U.S. strike, accusing the United States of violating Iraq’s sovereignty. Al-Sudani’s spokesperson stated that the strike would prompt Baghdad to reconsider the presence of the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq, raising concerns about potential strains in the already delicate relationship between the two nations.
This latest drone strike follows a series of retaliatory actions by the United States against Iranian-backed militias in response to attacks on American personnel and interests in the region. The U.S. has intensified its efforts to target leaders of these groups, signaling a shift in strategy aimed at disrupting their capabilities to plan and execute future attacks.
Andrew Tabler, a former Middle East director at the White House’s National Security Council, highlighted the significance of targeting leadership figures within these militias. “Now, the U.S. is going after the brains of the operations,” Tabler remarked, emphasizing the potential impact of such strikes in preventing future attacks on American forces.
The escalating tensions between the United States and Iran-backed militias pose significant challenges for regional stability. The U.S. has reiterated its commitment to defending its personnel and interests in Iraq, while also seeking to navigate diplomatic channels to address underlying grievances and reduce the risk of further escalation.
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