US says no casualties from new attack in Iraq, militia claims caused deaths

The US military said News week that he was aware of reports that a drone attack struck near Erbil International Airport, but said initial reports did not suggest any loss of life or property.

Meanwhile, a local militia claimed to have killed a number of people in a series of similar attacks.

Images were released on Tuesday via media associated with Iraqi “Resistance Axis” factions aligned with Iran, showing what appeared to be rockets and explosions targeting Erbil International Airport. A message claimed to have targeted an Israeli spy agency Mossad refuge at a hotel near the resort town of Salah al-Din.

A group calling itself Saraya Awliya al-Dam, which previously claimed responsibility for attacks on US positions in the region, then issued a warning.

“If the enemy does not admit their losses, we will tell them the number of Zionists who were killed in the Erbil operation tonight,” the statement said, as reported by pro-resistance media Sabreen News.

But in a statement sent to News weekPentagon spokeswoman Navy Commander Jessica McNulty said there was no indication anyone was injured or anything damaged as a result of the incident.

“We are aware of a report of a UAS incident in the vicinity of Erbil, Iraq. At this time, early reports indicate no structural damage, injuries or casualties.”

The US-led coalition and its spokesperson, Army Col. Wayne Marotto, then echoed this account and confirmed the use of a drone in identical statements sent to News week.

“Initial report: At around 11:15 pm local time, a UAS occurred near Erbil Air Base, Iraq,” the statement said. “At this time, early reports indicate no injuries, casualties or damage. We will update when we have more information.”

The model of an aircraft of the Iraqi Kurdish carrier “Zagrosjet” decorates on April 15 the center of a roundabout near the Erbil international airport in the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region of northern Iraq.
SAFIN HAMED / AFP / Getty Images

Attacks against positions associated with the US military and its allies in Iraq continue steadily as “Resistance Axis” factions call for the total withdrawal of foreign forces from the country.

The latest attack follows a series of airstrikes ordered last month by President Joe Biden against positions on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border, targeting what the Pentagon has described as facilities “used by militias. supported by Iran that are engaged in unmanned aerial vehicles. (UAV) against US personnel and installations in Iraq. “

The two militias identified were Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyed al-Shuhada, members of the Iraqi state-sponsored Popular Mobilization Forces, who confirmed the strikes as well as the deaths of four fighters on Iraqi soil. The Popular Mobilization Forces and the Iraqi government have condemned the US strikes, as has the Syrian government, with which the United States has no diplomatic relations.

Earlier on Tuesday, The Associated Press published an interview with elusive Kataib leader Sayyed al-Shuhada, Abu Alaa al-Walae, who warned of an “open war” against US troops in response to airstrikes and their continued presence in the country.

“We want this to be an operation where everyone says they took revenge on the Americans,” Walae said in a “It will be a qualitative operation. [that could come] from the air, the sea, along the Iraqi border, in the region or anywhere. “

After Erbil’s strike, Saraya Awliya al-Dam also warned that it would escalate if the United States continued to delay its military withdrawal from Iraq.

“We have warned you previously that in the event that your flight is further delayed,” the group said, according to Sabreen News, “we will have to use other methods deep within the bases of your occupation to get you to fly to again so that we don’t have to repeat what we have done tonight, for we have promised our proud people that we will toast you in the air. ”

U.S. forces in Syria also suffered retaliation in the aftermath of the strikes, as they suffered a rocket attack a day later and retaliated in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, a border region where the two United States

Asked whether a second US operation could be authorized by the president in response to the incident in Syria, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday such operations were anchored in national and international law.

“He endorsed these strikes, one with full authority, legal authority, US legal authority and international authority, because – and in a proportionate manner and in response to threats against our entity – the serving American men and women and the entities that served in those countries, ”Psaki said.

“That didn’t mean we expected it to come to a complete stop at the time, but he still believed it was the proper and proportionate action,” she added. “And our goal continues to be a de-escalation of violence on the ground.”

The Biden administration has also sought to highlight its ongoing partnership with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi despite his opposition to US strikes.

Speaking at a separate press briefing on Tuesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to comment on Kadhimi’s possible visit to Washington later this month, but reiterated the importance of relations between Washington and Baghdad.

“Our partnership with the government, with the Iraqi people is extremely important to us,” Price said. “We have a number of common interests, including the continuation of the campaign against ISIS.”

The United States and Iran have both supported Iraq in the campaign against the militant group Islamic State (IS), but friction between the two has intensified since former President Donald Trump stepped down from a multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran and the major world powers. US sanctions have severely damaged Iran’s trade relations, damaging the economy of the Islamic Republic and infuriating hard-line supporters opposed to the US presence in the region, particularly in the wake of Trump’s murder of the Commander of the Quds Force of Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Major General Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad International Airport in January last year.

Biden has set out to reinstate the deal, but is first seeking Iranian measures to return Tehran’s initial level of compliance with nuclear restrictions that have been relaxed in response to accusations of non-compliance against western parties to the agreement. , officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Tuesday that Tehran remains committed to fully meeting its obligations if the United States agrees to lift the sanctions, even as President-elect Ebrahim Raisi prepares to be sworn in. next month after last month’s election.

“Iran’s position on the JCPOA and the lifting of sanctions is one of the principled positions of the system, and it will not change with a change of government,” Khatibzadeh said. “Therefore, if an agreement is reached, the government of Sayyed Raisi will be loyal to him, because, unlike the approach of some other parties, honoring the obligations and promises given is still a principle for the Islamic Republic of Iran. “

Until then, however, he stressed that Iran was both “in no rush to reach an agreement” and that it would not allow the ongoing negotiations in the Austrian capital of Vienna “to continue”. indefinitely.

In Washington, Price also said the chance to come to an agreement was available for a limited period of time. And he criticized Tehran’s activities, both non-nuclear and nuclear, including its recent decision to start enriching uranium metal at 20% purity, another step for Iran away from a deal yet. completely abandoned by the United States.

“There are a whole host of other concerns – deep concerns – that we have with Iran’s behavior in the region,” Price said, “but we also know that as long as Iran has distanced itself of its engagements in the JCPOA, as long as Iran is in a position to undertake these provocations, including these nuclear provocations, as all the other challenges we face with Iran – whether its support for proxies, its support for terrorist groups – will all be more difficult to tackle. “

Also in Washington on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and White House National Security Advisor discussed Iran with Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman during his visit to the American capital.

Saudi Arabia has expressed concerns over its Iranian rival, especially over allegations of its support for the Ansar Allah, or Houthi, movement with which the kingdom is at war in neighboring Yemen. At the same time, delegations from Riyadh and Tehran met to try to stabilize bilateral relations broken off since early 2016.

Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiee told a press conference on Tuesday that progress had been made in those talks.

“We still believe that dialogue, especially between Muslim Ummah societies, is the only decent solution to resolve their differences,” Rabiee said, adding that “We understand that disputes in some cases can be complicated and their settlement takes time “. . “

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