According to the Associated Press, Iran promised “retaliation” against the United States for the Friday killing of General Qassem Soleimani, the leader of that nation’s elite Quds Force — and it appears that such retaliation may already be underway.
On Saturday, two separate attacks were launched in areas near U.S. interests in Iraq, CNBC reported.
Green Zone, Balad airbase hit
The rocket strikes occurred almost simultaneously, with one falling inside the heavily-militarized Green Zone area near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, according to the Military Times.
At the same time, a separate attack was aimed at the Balad airbase, where a significant number of deployed American troops are housed, the Times of Israel reported.
Both attacks were confirmed by Iraqi security sources, who also reported that no one was injured in the incidents, according to the BBC.
This all begs the question of precisely who is behind these rocket launches, and whether we have now seen the start of the retaliation promised by Iran.
The answer to the above questions remains unclear. As of yet, no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks. But suspicions have reportedly centered around a hardline pro-Iran faction linked to Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi military network.
The reason this group is potentially implicated is because not long after the two attacks were carried out, its members recommended that nearby Iraqis relocate to areas further away from where U.S. forces were likely to be present. “We ask security forces in the country to get at least 1,000 meters away from U.S. bases starting on Sunday at 5 p.m.,” the Kataeb Hezbollah faction said, according to the Times of Israel.
The timeframe of that warning just happened to correspond with an Iraqi parliamentary session planned for Sunday in which this particular pro-Iran group was expected to urge government officials to vote for the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
As such, it seems likely that the faction should be considered a prime suspect in any attack on U.S. troop or embassy locations. Whether the group is indeed responsible for Saturday’s attacks, though, has yet to be answered conclusively.
If Iran does choose to retaliate for the death of Soleimani — whether in the Middle East or on American soil — things may escalate rapidly, as President Donald Trump on Saturday promised a “very fast and very hard” response from the United States. In fact, Trump said that the U.S. military currently has 52 Iranian sites in its crosshairs, according to NBC News.
To help assuage the fears of concerned Americans, the Department of Homeland Security has stated that there is “no specific, credible threat” to the United States mainland at the present time, according to The New York Times. But only time will tell if new threats emerge.