Sunday’s night mortar attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad, which wounded an employee, is part of an alarming pattern of accurate attacks by Iran or its allies on US interests in the Middle East, according to a regional security official.
Sunday’s bombardment saw at least five mortar rounds fired at the sprawling but well-guarded US Embassy compound in central Baghdad. At least one struck a military dining facility, known as a DFAC. Although casualties were minimal, it was the fourth recent attack in which Iran or its proxies have demonstrated an uncanny accuracy that maintains a level of deterrence for Iran’s regional rivals.
Iran’s response to the US assassination of Iran’s Major General Qasem Soleimani was initially welcomed as a de-escalation of hostilities by US President Donald Trump, because no one was killed. But the attack contained a second, less obvious message, which has emerged over time: Even though the attack was non-lethal, it still shows we have the capability of hitting you with accuracy.
The US Embassy facility, a large, fortified compound in Baghdad’s tightly controlled “International Zone,” has come under repeated attacks by mortars and rockets, from protestors and guerilla groups, since the US invasion in 2003. Most projectiles are poorly aimed and miss the facility. But the accuracy of Sunday’s attack was a step-change: It demonstrated that America’s regional allies could be successfully targeted by Iran’s forces if the conflict were to escalate.
“The September attacks on Saudi oil facilities started this trend when they hit at least 16 out of 20 targets with cruise missiles fired from hundreds of kilometers away,” a regional security official told Insider. The source did not want to be identified discussing the issue publicly for fear of attracting negative attention from Iran.
“Then as things escalated this winter before and after the Suleimani killing, Iran struck the coalition base in Kirkuk accurately enough to kill an American, then responded to the Suleimani hit by landing five missiles fired from inside Iran within meters of American bunkers and facilities at al Assad [Airbase] leaving 30 some US soldiers concussed,” said the official, who works for a Middle Eastern government aligned with the US against Iranian influence.
“The message here is that the Iranians tend to hit what they target and in a crowded neighbourhood like the Middle East, this is a powerful deterrent to further American attacks on Iranian interests,” the security official said. “I don’t know if the Americans will respond to this latest attack — the current administration is hard for any of us to predict — but if they do, the Iranians have already established that their responses will be carefully targeted and very accurate.”
Iraqi officials are stuck between two close allies who dislike each other. Both Iran and the United States hold huge military, political, and economic influence over Iraq’s fledgling democracy — and they have increasingly spiralled towards military confrontation over the Trump administration’s desire to abandon Iraq. The US and Israel have conducted airstrikes on Iranian-backed Iraqi militias, in addition to the Suleimani assassination via a drone strike outside Baghdad’s international airport. Iran has responded by targeting US bases and facilities, a process that the regional security official expects to escalate.
“Iran has clearly decided its major revenge for the Suleimani killing will be to force the US from Iraq once and for all,” said the regional official. “And Iran has shown itself to be a very effective operator in this regard: It will carefully push both militarily and politically and use the current political crisis in Iraq as cover for their activities. And by showing the region that they can accurately target military facilities throughout the region, they’ve raised the price for the Americans each time they consider a response.”
Source » insider