The Green Zone, which includes the Washington embassy in Baghdad and the military bases hosting the international coalition forces, has been under missile attacks since the Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani was killed in an American raid early last year.
The US administration confirmed that it would respond to the missile attack that targeted American, Iraqi and other forces belonging to the international coalition at Ain Al-Assad base in Anbar province, western Iraq, at a time when the Iranian Foreign Ministry described the attack as suspicious.
US President Joe Biden said, “The relevant authorities are working to determine the party responsible for the missile strikes that targeted the Ain Al-Assad base in Iraq.”
White House spokeswoman Jane Saki said that the Biden administration is still assessing the impact of the attack that took place Wednesday, and stressed that the United States responded to the recent Iranian-backed attacks, and this will be the model that we will follow from now on.
But at the same time, she stressed that the administration will not take any hasty or unpredictable decision that may increase the escalation or be exploited by the opponents, as she put it.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken assured that his country would not hesitate to launch military strikes if American lives were threatened.
The spokesman for the international coalition against ISIS, Colonel Wayne Maruto, said that 10 missiles targeted the Ain Al-Asad air base on Wednesday morning, according to initial reports.
Maruto added – in a tweet on Twitter – that the Iraqi forces are leading the response and investigation into the attack, which comes as part of a series of attacks that Washington accuses Iranian-backed militias of carrying out, explaining that more information will be announced as soon as it is available.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement on Wednesday that an American contractor died of a heart attack while sheltering from the missiles, while there were no reports of injuries among US forces.
“We cannot determine responsibility at this time, and we do not have a full estimate of the extent of the damage,” Kirby said, at a time when Iraqi security forces are investigating the attack.
He added that the defense systems of Ain Al-Asad Air Force base were used, and that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was following the situation closely.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh denied that his country had anything to do with the recent attack on the Ain al-Assad base in Iraq.
In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Zadeh described the recent operations in Iraq, including the attack on the Ain Al-Assad base, as suspicious operations.
He said that there were doubts about a role for Israel in the attack in order to destabilize the Iraqi government.
For his part, the spokesman for the Joint Operations Command in Iraq, Major General Tahseen Al-Khafaji, told Al-Jazeera that the relevant authorities have begun an investigation into the attack with 10 “Grad” missiles on the Ain Al-Assad base.
Al-Khafaji added that all the rockets landed in the vicinity of the base and did not cause material or human damage to the base.
In a brief statement, the Iraqi Security Media Cell reported that the same number of Grad rockets had fallen without any losses, noting that the Iraqi forces had found the missile launch area.
As for the French Press Agency, it quoted Western security sources as saying that the missiles that targeted the Ain al-Assad base were of the Iranian-made “Arash” type.
Details of the attack
In turn, Al-Jazeera correspondent Samer Youssef quoted Iraqi security sources as saying that the bombing was launched from the Al-Bayader agricultural area of Al-Baghdadi district, 8 kilometers from the base, indicating that this area is populated by the Iraqi army and police and the tribal crowd (Hashd Al-Gharbia).
The reporter said that the missiles were placed on top of a civilian vehicle that was completely burnt after their launch.
Eyewitnesses were quoted as saying that the International Coalition planes flew after the bombing in the vicinity of the base, indicating that some witnesses were likely to evacuate soldiers to another place, while others suggested that the planes were conducting reconnaissance.
The attack comes about a week after the US bombing that targeted Iraqi armed factions in eastern Syria, and it also comes two days before the Pope’s visit to Iraq.
The Ain al-Assad base was hit in mid-January of last year by Iranian ballistic missiles, in response to the assassination of the former Quds Force commander, Qassem Soleimani, which resulted in great damage and the injury of US soldiers with concussions, according to what was confirmed by the administration of former President Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, the missile attack on the Ain Al-Assad base comes after similar attacks recently targeting military headquarters where American and other foreign forces operating within the international coalition are stationed.
The Green Zone in Baghdad – which includes the US embassy – was among the targeted headquarters, in addition to an air base housing US forces in the vicinity of Erbil airport in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, and the Balad air base in Salah al-Din Governorate, north of Baghdad.
The attack on the air base in Erbil resulted in the death of a foreign contractor and the injury of an American. An Iraqi civilian contractor was also wounded in the bombing of the air base in Balad.
In response to those attacks, the US military launched raids last Thursday evening on sites in eastern Syria at the border with Iraq, which include militias that Washington says are backed by Iran, resulting in at least one dead, according to the US Department of Defense (the Pentagon), while sources spoke Another reported that at least 17 militants were killed.