US stages retaliatory airstrikes against Iran-backed militias in Iraq, officials say

US stages retaliatory airstrikes against Iran-backed militias in Iraq, officials say

On Tuesday, the United States conducted airstrikes against Iran-backed militias in Iraq as a response to the ballistic missiles fired on Sunday at the Al-Assad airbase, resulting in traumatic brain injuries for four U.S. personnel. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated that the strikes targeted three facilities used by the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia group and other Iran-affiliated groups. These precision strikes were a direct response to a series of escalating attacks against U.S. and Coalition personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-sponsored militias.

Sunday’s attack on the Al-Assad airbase involved 17 ballistic missiles and rockets, launched from within Iraq. While most projectiles were intercepted, two ballistic missiles breached U.S. air defenses, causing structural damage to “noncritical facilities.” Four U.S. service members returned to their duties after evaluation for traumatic brain injuries, and an Iraqi official was also injured.

The Pentagon emphasized that the retaliatory measures aimed to defend U.S. personnel and interests without seeking further escalation. The U.S. government called on the militias and their Iranian sponsors to cease such attacks immediately.

The recent airstrikes mark a response to more than 150 rocket and drone attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria since mid-October, executed by Iranian-backed militias claiming support for Palestinians in the Israeli-Hamas conflict. The use of ballistic missiles in this weekend’s attack was seen as an escalation.

Despite ongoing U.S. airstrikes and efforts to deter the attacks, tensions persist in the region. The continued presence of American troops in Iraq faced uncertainty after Iraq’s parliament questioned it, particularly following a U.S. drone strike on January 4 that targeted a leader of an Iranian-backed militia responsible for previous attacks on U.S. forces.

Beyond Iraq, the United States has also conducted retaliatory strikes in Yemen against Houthi militants. These strikes targeted those responsible for over 30 attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The U.S. and the United Kingdom carried out another major strike against Houthi locations associated with shipping attacks on Monday, marking the eighth retaliatory airstrike since January 11. Despite these actions, Houthi attacks have continued, reflecting rising tensions in the region.