Kataib Hezbollah denies position in latest Iraq rocket assaults

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Feb 23, 2021

Kataib Hezbollah, one of many largest Iran-backed militias in Iraq, publicly denied any involvement in a latest rocket strike on Erbil International Airport and Baghdad’s Green Zone.

“We absolutely did not target Erbil or the Green Zone and have no knowledge of the group that did,” spokesperson Mohammed Mohi advised Reuters on Tuesday.

A supposed group calling itself Saraya Awliya al-Dam claimed credit score for final week’s 14-rocket barrage on Erbil’s airport in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish area. The fusillade killed a army contractor and wounded 9 others, together with a member of the US army.

While some specialists have suspected the supposed group is a entrance for Iran-backed teams similar to Kataib Hezbollah or Asaib Ahl al-Haq, the Biden administration has averted publicly blaming Iran for the incident to date.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby reiterated on Tuesday that no blame could possibly be conclusively assigned for the Erbil assault, citing an ongoing investigation led by the Iraqi authorities.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Monday mentioned the United States would “hold Iran responsible for the actions of its proxies that attack Americans.”

Price additionally mentioned the rockets fired in latest assaults have been “Iranian-made and Iranian-supplied” however that no exact attribution for the assault might but be made.

“We will respond in a way that’s calculated, within our own timetable, and using a mix of tools at a time and place of our choosing, as you’ve heard me say before,” Price mentioned, including, “What we will not do is lash out and risk escalation that plays into the hands of Iran.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry denied involvement within the Erbil strike final week.

Mohi on Tuesday advised Reuters that such strikes appeared designed to set off unhealthy blood between the United States and the Iran-backed militias, noting that if a detente sought by each the United States and Iran have been allowed to take maintain, it could lead on the United States to take away its troops from Iraq — a long-time purpose of teams like Kataib Hezbollah.

An identical rocket assault in 2019 killed an Iraqi-born, naturalized US citizen who was working as a army contractor. The earlier US administration beneath former President Donald Trump retaliated for the killing by bombing Kataib Hezbollah targets in varied areas throughout Iraq.

In response, Iraqi Shiite militia and political leaders and supporters stormed the US Embassy in Baghdad. The Trump administration then assassinated Iranian Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a Baghdad drone strike — a dying Iranian leaders have vowed to avenge.

The Biden administration’s cautious statements on the incidents distinction sharply with the tendency of the previous Trump administration guilty Iran and its proxies for such assaults. The new approach has some observers questioning whether or not the brand new administration is tiptoeing by means of such incidents with a purpose to protect fragile but up to now small positive factors in convincing Iranian leaders to reengage in dialogue to reassert the 2015 nuclear deal, which the Trump administration deserted in 2018.

On Tuesday, Kirby appeared to invest that the strikes in Iraq could possibly be tied to Iranian posturing forward of the proposed nuclear talks.

“It’s difficult to say with certainty whether there’s a strategic calculation driving this recent uptick in attacks, or whether this is just a continuation of this sort of attack that we have seen in the past,” Kirby mentioned Monday.

Iran-linked armed teams have launched renewed assaults in latest weeks elsewhere within the area. Explosions have been heard over Saudi Arabia’s capital late final month because the commander of US forces within the Middle East visited the dominion. US officers have mentioned a type of strikes was launched from Iraq however offered no public proof.

A supposed group referred to as Alwiyat al-Waad al-Haq claimed credit score for that strike, which reportedly hit the Saudi royal compound on Jan. 23. Mohi on Tuesday advised Reuters that “people in the region who have suffered from Saudi [policy] have the right to retaliate.”

Earlier this month, a minimum of 4 explosive drones hit an airport in southwest Saudi Arabia as Washington’s Yemen envoy, Timothy Lenderking, was set to arrive within the kingdom. Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who’ve ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, claimed credit score for that assault.