Bases housing US troops in Iraq and Syria came under fire on Wednesday. No casualties were reported, but the incidents marked an uptick in attacks on US forces in the region.
In Iraq, five Katyusha rockets were fired at the Ain al-Asad airbase, located west of Baghdad. According to Iraq’s military, there was no damage or casualties, and the closest rocket fell within 1.2 miles of the base. Earlier in the day, a rocket was fired towards a base hosting US troops near Baghdad’s international airport.
The incidents in Iraq marked the third day in a row that bases hosting US troops came under fire in the country. Attacks on Monday and Tuesday were launched with drones, which were shot down by air defenses.
In Syria, the US said eight rounds of indirect fire hit the Green Village base near the Iraq border. Again, no casualties were reported, but there was minor damage. The US-led coalition in Syria said it fired back with “six rounds of artillery towards the point of origin of the attack just outside Mayadin, Syria.”
The attacks came after the US formally changed its combat mission in Iraq to an advisory one. The move was an effort to placate elements in Iraq that are opposed to the US presence, but no US troops actually left. Since there was no real withdrawal, an uptick in attacks on US forces was expected.
Some of Iraq’s Shia militias that also operate in eastern Syria had threatened to renew attacks on the US. The Pentagon didn’t attribute blame for this week’s incidents but said there are threats in Iraq and Syria from forces “backed by Iran.” But Iran’s influence over the Shia militias is exaggerated and varies by each group. Iran also doesn’t have a reason to escalate tensions with the US at this time since it is seeking sanctions relief in the nuclear deal talks that are ongoing in Vienna.