Iran’s Tasnim media emphasized an explosion it says targeted a “US military vehicle south of Baghdad.” It used an image of the Popular Mobilization Units or Shi’ite militias in Iraq to emphasize an Iranian connection to the attack. The PMU are part of Iraq’s paramilitary forces and have opposed the US presence in Iraq.

The report notes that the explosion was directed at a vehicle carrying US military and security equipment near Al-Adawiniya south of Baghdad. “An Iraqi security source said in a statement that the security column was targeted on the international highway.” An armed group targeted the column that belonged to a company operating in Iraq. The bomb destroyed the wheel of a vehicle but did not wound anyone.

Iran’s use of the PMU logo and linking the attack the paramilitaries points to knowledge that the PMU was linked to the attack. In recent days Qais Khazali of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq has warned the US that America has crossed a red line in Iraq and that opposition to the US will increase. On January 24 Muqtada al Sadr and Hadi al-Amiri of Badr organized a large protest in Baghdad against the US.

Iran is also concerned that the US has not withdrawn from Iraq yet. Iran believed that its ballistic missile attack on January 8 would cause the US to leave. It also believed it could get Iraq’s parliament to eject the US. Iran’s media claims that a member of Iraq’s security and defense committee has spoken with France, Germany and Australia to get them to withdraw forces from the US-led Coalition in Iraq. Iran carefully monitored the recent visit by US CENTCOM commander Kenneth McKenzie to Iraq and also recent comments by Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

The US says 109 troops were injured as a result of the January ballistic missile attack. Rumors have persisted that the US is constructing new facilities in Syria and re-positioning some troops to northern Iraq. Plans to deploy Patriot missiles to defend US troops in Iraq are also on hold. Meanwhile, more than 12 rocket attacks last year and early this year have targeted facilities where US forces are located. In addition, an attack hit the US embassy compound. Another report indicates the US may be concerned about alleged Israeli airstrikes last year in Iraq. Iraq’s former Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi blamed Israel for airstrikes.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says US “terrorism” targets Iran. The anniversary of the Islamic Revolution this week in Iran will encourage Iranian media and leaders to push more incitement against the US, including against US forces and facilities in Iraq. However, Iraqi-based militias and leaders are concerned that pressuring the US could lead to more pushback, such as the previous US airstrike on IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani and Kataib Hezbollah leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Reports fed to media have claimed that the PMU and its various Iranian-backed militias were not behind recent attacks on the US, including the December 27 attack that killed a US contractor. The US nevertheless believes Kataib Hezbollah was behind the attacks and it launched airstrikes against the group in December 2019.

Source » jpost