The Biden administration has the right to “respond” to a Monday night rocket attack on a US military base in Iraq Kurdistan and is working to attribute blame, the White House said on Tuesday.
“We’re still working through attribution with our Iraqi partners to determine precise attribution for this attack,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. When asked if the US would retaliate, Psaki said the US “reserves the right to respond in the time and the manner of our choosing.”
The attack hit a US base in Erbil, Iraq, killing one contractor working for the US and wounding eight others. One US soldier was also wounded in the incident. A US military spokesman said on Tuesday that the contractor that was killed was not American. Rockets also fell on a nearby airport, and civilians were reported wounded outside of the base.
While the US is working with Iraqi and local Kurdish authorities to attribute blame, a little-known group named Awliya al-Dam took credit for the attack, but it is not yet clear if they were responsible.
These types of attacks are usually blamed on Iran or Iran-backed Shia militias. Sources told US News that some US and Kurdish officials believe Iran was complicit in the attack, but no public accusations have been made, and no evidence has been offered to back up the claim.
Iran denied any responsibility in the Erbil attack on Tuesday and said the accusations against Tehran were “suspicious.” There are many different groups inside Iraq with their own reasons to fire on a US base. For Iran, which is seeking sanctions relief from the new US administration, now is not the time to escalate tensions with Washington.