The Iraqi prime minister’s office warned that US strikes on Iran-backed proxies on Tuesday would lead to an “irresponsible escalation”.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Iraqi government expressed its disapproval, deeming the operations as “aggressive actions” that undermine years of cooperation between the two nations.
“These precision strikes are in direct response to a series of escalatory attacks against US and Coalition personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-sponsored militias,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.
It came as a rare response to attacks by Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah which has been carrying out strikes on US facilities in Iraq since the war in Gaza broke out, in response to US support of Israel’s retaliation following the Iran-backed Hamas invasion on October 7.
Since the war broke out, over 150 attacks on US troops in Iraq and Syria have been carried out by Iran-aligned militants.
In spite of the retaliation, Kataib Hezbollah’s military spokesperson, Jaafar al-Husseini, vowed to persist in targeting “enemy bases” until the end of Israel’s bombardment in Gaza, a response to Hamas attacks which killed at least 1,200 mostly civilians in a single day and saw 250 or more taken hostage to Gaza.
On Wednesday, an armed drone reportedly targeted a base housing US forces near Erbil airport in northern Iraq, according to Reuters sources. Details of the incident have yet to be released.
While Iran has refrained from direct military involvement in the Gaza war to avert a confrontation with Israel and the US, its proxy forces in the Middle East have actively targeted US and Israeli interests, along with international shipping in the Red Sea.
Presently, the US maintains 900 troops in Syria and 2,500 in Iraq, working to advise and assist local forces in preventing the resurgence of the Islamic State, which seized substantial territories in both countries in 2014 before being defeated.