US warplanes hit targets in Iraq early Wednesday morning, marking the second round of US airstrikes in the country in just over 24 hours as the situation in the region continues to escalate.
Pentagon officials said the airstrikes hit two facilities south of Baghdad used by Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi Shia militia aligned with Iran. Officials said it was too early to provide information about casualties.
The strikes came after a US AC-130 gunship targeted people in Iraq the Pentagon said was responsible for a ballistic missile attack on the Ain al-Asad airbase west of Baghdad. US officials said the AC-130 strikes killed three militants.
The attack on the Ain al-Asad airbase wounded at least eight US troops. According to the Pentagon, US forces in Iraq and Syria have come under attack 66 times since October 17 due to President Biden’s support for Israel’s onslaught on Gaza.
The US had previously launched three rounds of airstrikes in eastern Syria, but the AC-130 strikes marked the first US bombing of Iraq since October 7. The US attacks on Iraq risk a significant escalation as many elements inside the country are opposed to the US presence, not just the Iran-aligned faction.
The Washington Post reported over the weekend that the Pentagon was aware launching strikes in Iraq could “exacerbate anti-American sentiment” in the country. Iraq’s parliament voted to expel US troops back in 2020 after the US drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
Iraqi prime ministers have been under pressure to expel foreign troops ever since 2020. In an effort to placate anti-US factions, the US formally changed its presence in Iraq from a combat role to an advisory role in December 2021. But the US did not withdraw any troops at the time and still has 2,500 in the country today.