A senior leader of a militia that U.S. officials blame for recent attacks on American personnel was killed in a U.S. Special Operations retaliatory drone strike in the Iraqi capital on Wednesday, according to the Pentagon. This follows President Biden’s promise that the response to a series of attacks by Shiite militias would persist.
According to the Pentagon, the individual was a top official of the paramilitary group Kata’ib Hezbollah, which is believed by officials to have carried out the drone assault in Jordan last month that resulted in the deaths of three American service members and injuries to over forty others.
American intelligence agencies had been following the militia commander for some time, according to a U.S. official, who described the strike as a “dynamic” hit. According to a second official, the US still has the option to target other commanders and leaders of Shiite militias.
Footage from the area revealed a fire and the remains of a wrecked car in an eastern Baghdad neighborhood. According to a senior official from Kata’ib Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards Corps of Iran, two commanders were killed in the strike. Arkan al-Elayawi and Abu Baqir al-Saedi were named by witnesses as the individuals on identification cards discovered in the area.
As a result, Baghdadi demonstrators took to the streets, yelling, “America is the devil.” Defending Iraq’s sovereignty and warning of “dangerous repercussions in the region,” Maj. Gen. Tahsin al-Khafaji characterized the attack as “an aggression.”
The United States launched what Mr. Biden and his advisors have described as an ongoing campaign of reprisal on Friday and Saturday, following three relatively calm days in the Middle East. Wednesday’s strike followed these salvos.
Following their strikes on Iranian and militia facilities in Syria and Iraq on Friday, American jets were reported by the Pentagon on Monday to have destroyed or badly damaged the majority of those objectives.
The Pentagon spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, reported that “more than 80” out of 85 targets in Iraq and Syria had been either destroyed or made inoperable. He listed logistics and ammo bunkers among the targets, along with command and intelligence centers, rocket, missile, and attack drone depots.
The US views the Iraqi group Kata’ib Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and an Iranian proxy. The United States attributes the increasing frequency of missile and drone strikes on American forces in Iraq and Syria since the conflict between Hamas and Israel started on October 7 to Iran and its affiliated militias.
The goal of the retaliatory attacks ordered by the Biden administration has been to prevent a broader conflict by dissuading these groups. Administration officials claimed that a red line had been broken when three American service men were killed in a drone attack on a remote base in Jordan on January 28. Mr. Biden, however, promised a persistent campaign of revenge.
The Iranian government’s unwillingness to directly challenge the US was reflected in Kata’ib Hezbollah’s announcement that it would cease attacks on US personnel following that strike, which was ordered by the Iraqi and Iranian governments. However, other criminal organizations have not made the same promises.
Despite the administration’s claims that it does not want war with Iran, the region has been pushed closer to a wider conflict due to the attacks in Syria, Iraq, and Jordan, as well as the tit-for-tat strikes exchanged between the US and its allies and the Houthis in Yemen, who are backed by Iran.
American authorities have stated that their main objective is to reduce the militias’ powerful weaponry and prevent more attacks on American forces and trade ships in the Red Sea.
U.S. officials have stated that by striking targeted Kata’ib Hezbollah commanders, the administration is threatening Iran and the militias it supports with a heavy retaliation for every American life lost.
The Pentagon said in January that they had assassinated the commander of Haraqat al Nujaba, an Iraqi militia that was involved in plotting and executing assaults against American forces in Syria and Iraq.
In private, national security analysts and officials have speculated that a long-term operation comparable to the six-year fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria would be necessary for the US to significantly weaken the capabilities of the militias backed by Iran.
According to the officials, even in that case, the militias backed by Iran have a better chance of survival than the Islamic State, which was under pressure from the US, Iran, and even Russia. Additionally, a far larger number of senior commanders and officials would need to be targeted by the US.
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