The leader of Iraq’s Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq resistance group has announced a change of tactic in dealing with American forces on the Arab country’s soil, pledging to respond to the US military’s deadly attack against Iraq’s popular forces in an “unexpected place” and with an “unexpected weapon.”
“Our tactic in the previous stage was to deplete the military capability of the enemy to force it to leave [Iraq], but the American enemy proved that it has no respect for the blood of the sons of the [Iraqi] nation,” Qais Khazali said in televised remarks on Tuesday night.
“We are not bloodthirsty warmongers, and the resistance will refrain from shedding blood in its operations as much as possible,” added the head of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, a faction of Hashd al-Sha’abi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).
In the early hours of Monday, the US military conducted airstrikes against three targets purportedly belonging to Iraqi resistance groups along the Iraqi-Syrian border.
Hashd al-Sha’abi said four Iraqi fighters were killed in the attack targeting the headquarters of the 14th Brigade of the PMU.
“The American enemy started the murder and brought the battle to this level,” Khazali said. “The resistance’s operation has entered a new phase.”
The leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq also pledged “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and if the US continues its bloodshed, we are capable [of responding].”
Hours after the Monday attack, the US military reported that multiple rockets had hit an illegal American base in the eastern Syrian province of Dayr al-Zawr.
“At 7:44 PM local time, US Forces in Syria were attacked by multiple rockets. There are no injuries and damage is being assessed,” Coly. Wayne Marrotto, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, announced via Twitter.
However, Russia’s Sputnik news agency cited Syrian sources as saying that several American forces and allied militants were injured during the rocket attack, and were subsequently taken to al-Shaddadi hospital in Hasakah province.
‘US still assessing attacks’
On Tuesday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby declined to comment on the details of the attack, saying, “We’re still assessing the rocket attacks.”
“I’m not in a position to get into specifics about the number of rockets, and we're still assessing attribution on this,” he said.
Kirby, however, confirmed that there was some structural damage to two buildings on the compound, but claimed there were no US casualties as a result.
Confronted with a reference to Iran’s January 8, 2020 missile attack on Ai al-Asad air base, after which it took over a month for the US to admit that over 100 American forces suffered from traumatic brain injuries, Kirby interrupted the questioner several times and repeated that there were “no initial reports of casualties.”
“I’m just giving you what we — what we know right now. And we’re still assessing, and so things could change but that's what we know right now,” he claimed.
Asked whether the encounter might lead to further escalations in Iraq, Kirby said the US strikes were intended to “disrupt and deter future attacks” on American forces, who have been targeted repeatedly in the aftermath of the US assassination of Iran’s top anti-terror general Qassem Soleimani and PMU’s Deputy Commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis on January 3, 2020.
“Nobody is interested in escalating tensions,” the Pentagon press secretary claimed. “Nobody is interested in further violence in Iraq or in Syria.”
The remarks come while Iraqi officials and lawmakers have repeatedly condemned Washington’s illegal attacks on their soil, which primarily target the PMU and other anti-terror forces who have played a major role in liberating Iraq from Daesh.
On Monday, Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi strongly denounced the US airstrikes as a “flagrant violation” of the Iraqi sovereignty, saying the Iraqi government will “study all legal options” to prevent such action from being repeated.
“We condemn the US air attack that targeted a site last night on the Iraqi-Syrian border, which represents a blatant and unacceptable violation of Iraqi sovereignty and Iraqi national security,” read a statement from Kadhemi’s office on Monday.
Meanwhile, Marrotto announced on Tuesday that the US military had responded to the counter-attack against American forces by targeting the rocket launching positions and one Hellfire from a UAV.
He said the attack resulted in “one enemy wounded in action.”
Marrotto, too, claimed that there were no casualties or injuries to US forces as a result of the rocket attack.
He put the number of rockets fired at the American base at approximately 34.
Update: On June 28, U.S. Forces in Syria were attacked by multiple rockets, approx. 34 x 122mm rounds of indirect fire. There were no casualties or injuries to U.S. forces.— OIR Spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto (@OIRSpox) June 29, 2021