Iraq braces for US response after deadly drone attack on Syria-Jordan border base

Iraq braces for US response after deadly drone attack on Syria-Jordan border base
The US response would likely be inside Iraq, and it would have deadly consequences for the country, Iraqi political observers warn.
4 min read
29 January, 2024
The United States has 2,500 troops in Iraq, and 900 more in neighbouring Syria [Getty]

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq asserted its responsibility for a  drone strike that killed three US soldiers and injured at least 34 in a base along the triangle border area between Jordan, Syria and Iraq.

The US service members were killed and injured by an aerial drone attack on US forces stationed in northeastern Jordan near the Syrian border, President Joe Biden said on Sunday, 28 January, blaming Iran-backed groups for the attack.

Before Biden's declaration, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, in a statement posted on social media platforms on Sunday, announced its responsibility for the attack.  

"In line with our ongoing resistance against American occupying forces in Iraq and the broader region, and retaliation for the atrocities committed by the Zionist entity against our people in Gaza, Islamic Resistance operatives in Iraq launched drone attacks early Sunday targeting four enemy bases, three located in Syria –including Al-Shadadi, Al-Rkban, and Al-Tanaf bases – and the fourth within our occupied Palestinian territory," the group declared.

However, the group did not reiterate its responsibility for the attack after the US announced casualties from the strike.

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Since Israel launched its war on Gaza last October, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a shadowy coalition of Iranian-backed militias, has conducted attacks on bases hosting US forces in Iraq and Syria. The group asserts that these strikes are retaliatory measures against Washington's backing of Israel's war on Gaza and aims to pressure the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

In response to attacks on its forces, the US conducted airstrikes in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. US authorities are presently engaged in efforts to attribute responsibility for Sunday's assault definitively.

"Have no doubt: We will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner our choosing," Biden said in a post on the X platform on Sunday.

Abdul Ghani Ghazban, an Iraqi political observer, told The New Arab that the attack will have grave consequences for Iraq.

"The issue will have dangerous consequences for Iraq. It made Iraq an arena of conflict between the US and Iran," Ghasban said to TNA via a messaging application. "This attack will give the American side the right to respond since they have previously said the killing of their soldiers is a red line. Some say the drone was launched from the Syrian border, but whether the drone was launched from Syria or Iraq, the same groups who previously declared their responsibility are blamed for the attack." 

He also stated that the US response would be inside Iraq "because the main headquarters of those groups are inside Iraq."

He also anticipated other ways of US retaliation might be through assassinating critical figures within the Iraqi militias. He indicated that President Biden will undoubtedly respond to the drone attack to increase his popularity amid his electoral campaign to secure the second term.  

"It is a dangerous development that would affect the Iraqi people who have nothing to do with the US-Iran conflicts," he cautioned. 

Bassam al-Awadi, the Iraqi government spokesman on Monday, condemned the attack on US troops, calling for an end to the cycle of violence.

"The Iraqi government condemns the ongoing escalation, especially the recent attack on the Syrian-Jordanian border, and closely monitors the critical security developments in the region," Awadi told Iraqi News Agency (INA). "While Iraq calls for an end to the cycle of violence, it confirms its readiness to work on drawing up basic rules of engagement to avoid further repercussions in the region and prevent the conflict from spreading."

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"The repercussions of these developments threaten regional and international peace and security, undermine efforts to combat terrorism and drugs, as well as endanger trade, economy, and energy supplies," he continued.

Top authorities in the Iraqi Kurdistan region also condemned the assault on the US forces.

The US has launched several attacks against the Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria, one as recently as last week, when the US struck three facilities in Iraq used by Kataib Hezbollah and other Iran-affiliated groups.