US Conducts Airstrikes on Shi’ite Militias in Iraq and Syria

US blames militia for Friday attack on Iraq base

US F-15 warplanes carried have carried out a series of airstrikes targeting Iraq’s Shi’ite militias, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), over the course of Sunday. The strikes targeted five PMU bases, killing at least 25, and wounding over 50 others.

US officials are trying to justify this series of attacks on the basis of the Friday rocket strikes on the Iraqi military base near Kirkuk, which killed a US contractor and wounded multiple US troops. They are accusing PMU group Ketaib Hezbollah of being behind that attack, and are attacking their bases as a result.

US officials say the Ketaib Hezbolah facilities were storage facilities, and accused the group of planning attacks on US forces. They said further attacks would depend on the militia’s response.

Officials offered no proof Ketaib Hezbollah was behind Friday’s attack, but did say the group has links to Iran’s Quds Forces and receives aid from them. This caps off recent weeks of stories that Iran secretly moved missiles into Iraq.

There hasn’t been a reaction yet from the Iraqi government, but it will necessarily be a negative one, since the PMU forces are explicitly part of the Iraqi government’s security forces. This raises serious doubts about US claims that the PMU would attack an Iraqi Army base in the first place, and US attacks on PMU bases are effectively an act of war against Iraq.

The US is likely to try to downplay the attacks on Iraqi government forces here by spinning the PMU as “Iranian” forces, which they have often attempted in the past. Yet these groups are not Iranian, just Shi’ite, and the US struggle to understand the distinction has often been a source of tension with Iraq’s very Shi’ite government.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.