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Rockets from Iraq hit US coalition base in Syria, Iran-linked militants blamed

HomeWARRockets from Iraq hit US coalition base in Syria, Iran-linked militants blamed

Tensions erupted in a blaze of fury late Sunday as rockets rained down from northern Iraq, slamming into a US military base in northeast Syria. The brazen attack represented the first major strike against American-led coalition forces in the region in several weeks, abruptly shattering a fragile period of relative calm.

According to Iraqi security forces, the rockets originated from the restive northern province of Nineveh, where Iran-backed militias have maintained a stronghold. In the aftermath, the Iraqi troops sprang into action, launching an urgent search operation to locate those responsible. Their efforts paid off as they tracked down the vehicle used to launch the deadly barrage, swiftly exacting retribution by engulfing it in flames.

While no group immediately raised their hand to claim credit for the audacious attack, fingers quickly pointed toward the Islamic Resistance in Iraq – a shadowy conglomeration of Iranian proxy militias. The prominent Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group explicitly accused this elusive network of orchestrating the rockets’ arcing trajectory from Iraqi soil into the Kharab al-Jir base near Qamishli.

The Islamic Resistance has remained adamant that its actions are driven by solidarity with the Palestinian cause and seething anger over American support for Israel’s military operations in Gaza earlier this month. However, the timing of this latest provocation raises questions about whether larger machinations are afoot.

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Just days prior, Israel allegedly unleashed a drone strike into Iran itself, marking a significant escalation in the long-simmering feud between the sworn enemies. With each ruthless blow, the pendulum of violence swings more erratically, fueling fears that the region’s already towering tensions could erupt into an uncontrollable inferno.

“We’re watching the situation closely and vigorously protecting our troops against hostile acts,” warned Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesperson for the US-led coalition in Syria and Iraq. “Our forces always reserve the right to self-defense, and we won’t hesitate to respond appropriately if necessary to preserve their safety.”

Yet some regional analysts suggest the Iranian regime’s motivations stretch far beyond retaliating over Gaza. Rather, they see the orchestrated militias’ disruptive attacks as part of a calculated strategy to secure leverage for upcoming nuclear negotiations.

“Iran’s network of proxies and allied militias functions almost like a versatile cadre of diversionary forces to pursue the regime’s interests,” said Becca Wasser, a senior policy analyst with the RAND Corporation. “Plausible deniability from these periodic strikes allows Tehran to attempt raising pressure on the US without the full exposure and risk of direct combat operations.”

The US currently maintains around 2,500 troops in Iraq and nearly 900 more across the border in eastern Syria – a substantial presence for the coalition’s ongoing mission against ISIS remnants. Yet that force has repeatedly come under attack in recent months by Iran’s proxies employing rockets, drones, and other weaponry.

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In late January, one such strike killed three American contractors near the Jordanian border, prompting return strikes by US forces against dozens of Iran-allied militia facilities in Syria and Iraq. While those retaliatory barrages aimed to degrade the groups’ attack capabilities, they also drew stiff condemnation from the Iraqi and Syrian governments denouncing violations of their sovereignty.

For several weeks afterward, an uneasy détente temporarily took hold. That relative peace was upended by Sunday’s barrage on the US base in northeast Syria, part of a worsening pattern that provoked fierce censure.

“This is the cycle we’ve sadly grown accustomed to – periods of tenuous quiet followed by major attacks targeting our forces in Iraq and Syria by Iranian proxy militias,” fumed Senator Marco Rubio, the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Our limited military footprint there without a stronger defensive posture only continues making our troops vulnerable and allowable targets.”

The coalition base wasn’t the sole target in recent days either, signaling escalating regional instability. Early Saturday, an explosion tore through an Iraqi military installation in Babylon province, killing one person and wounding eight others – including members of the state-affiliated, Iranian-linked militias comprising the Popular Mobilization Forces.

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While the US military’s central command disavowed any role in that strike, fresh memories linger of Israel’s increasingly overt campaign targeting Iranian interests through aerial bombardments inside Iraq and Syria. As diplomatic efforts to revive the moribund 2015 Iran nuclear deal stall, the risk of a regionwide conflagration continues escalating.

“We’re heading into an extremely perilous environment where Iran feels compelled to retaliate, especially if no progress emerges on restoring the JCPOA,” cautioned Norman Roule, a former CIA Iran expert now with the Newlines Institute in Washington, referring to the nuclear agreement by its acronym.

“The regime has demonstrated a willingness to accept calculated risks that could spiral out of control at any moment.”

For the thousands of American service members deployed across the region, Sunday’s rocket attack served as a jarring reminder that they remain squarely in the crosshairs. With hopes for de-escalation fading and all sides digging into entrenched positions, the cycle of violence threatens to engulf the Middle East like a raging wildfire.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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