This morning, AFP reported that ten rockets have struck the al-Assad military airport in Western Iraq. U.S. troops currently occupy the base.
In just two days, Pope Francis is slated to visit the country.
This is the first attack on a U.S. hosting base since the Biden Administration’s airstrike on Iranian-backed militia facilities in Eastern Syria on February 25th in response to the initial rocket attack on the U.S. base in Erbil, Iraq.
AFP announced one rocket-related death in its report: “A civilian contractor with the US-led coalition in Iraq died of a heart attack during a rocket attack on the sprawling Ain al-Assad air base, Iraqi and Western security sources say.”
The aggressor remains unknown. Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) Spokesman, Colonel Wayne Marotto, said that the “Iraqi SF [Security Force] are leading the response & investigation.”
Col. Marotto also confirmed that the rockets used were Iranian-made:
“Western security sources told AFP the rockets were Iranian-made Arash models, which are 122mm artillery rockets and heavier than those seen in similar attacks.”
Why it matters:
- The Biden Administration is working to bring back the Iran Nuclear deal, which the Trump Administration ended. On February 28th, 3 days after the U.S. bombing on Iranian facilities, Iran rejected negotiations with the U.S. and the E.U. and insisted on the U.S. fully lifting sanctions.
- This escalating tension between the US and Iran could make Biden’s plan shift further away from plausibility.
- It is worth noting that the al-Assad military airport was also heavily attacked by Iranian ballistic missiles in retaliation to the Trump administration’s killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps General Qassem Soleimani in 2020.
What they’re saying:
- Pope Francis is determined to visit Iraq despite the attack: “The Iraqi people are waiting for us, they were waiting for Saint John Paul II, who was forbidden to go,” “One cannot disappoint a people for the second time. Let us pray that this journey will be successful.”
- Pentagon Press Secretary Kirby stands firm on its Feb 25th airstrike decision:
“This really was a defensive strike meant to help protect … American forces and coalition partners.”