Source: The Hill
Jan 31, 2024
Iran-linked militia blamed for deadly attack on US base suspending operations in Iraq
BY BRAD DRESS
The Iranian-backed militia group accused of carrying out a deadly attack on U.S. forces in Jordan over the weekend that killed three American troops announced on Tuesday that it was suspending military operations in Iraq.
Iraqi militia group Kata’ib Hezbollah said it would no longer target American troops in a campaign they and other Iranian-backed groups say has been waged in solidarity with the Palestinian people amid Israel’s war in Gaza.
In a statement carried on Iranian Telegram channels, the group said it would stop the fighting against U.S. forces “to avoid embarrassment for the Iraqi government.”
“We will continue to defend our people in Gaza in other ways and advise the fighters of [Kata’ib] Hezbollah, the brave and free, to adopt passive defense … if any hostile American action occurs against them,” the statement from the group’s leader reads.
The Pentagon on Tuesday expressed doubt at the claims from the Iraqi militia group, which has fought along with other Iranian-sponsored groups against the U.S. since the breakout of the Israel-Hamas war in October.
Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said “actions speak louder than words.”
“I don’t think we could be any more clear that we have called on the Iranian proxy groups to stop their attacks. They have not,” Ryder said. “When I say actions speak louder than words, you know, there has been three attacks, to my knowledge, since the 28th of January.”
The Pentagon has yet to officially identify which group is responsible for the Sunday attack on Tower 22, a U.S. base in Jordan close to Iraq and Syria. An unidentified Iranian-backed militia group launched an explosive suicide drone at the housing units on the base, an attack that also injured more than 40 people in addition to the three killed.
Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said this week the attack has the “footprints” of Kata’ib Hezbollah.
Iranian-backed militia groups operate as official units in Iraq’s security forces under an umbrella group called the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani is closely aligned with the PMF and has forged closer ties with Iran since coming to power. Amid the U.S. fighting with Iranian-linked groups, al-Sudani has called to expel the roughly 2,500 American troops in his country.
The deadly trading of attacks in Iraq has spurred concern in Baghdad that it is descending once again into a warzone. The U.S. is currently sitting down with Iraqi leaders to discuss the future of the fight against extremist Islamist group ISIS and the role of the American troops in the fight.