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In the recent weeks the US-led coalition in Iraq experienced a turn for the worse.
On the evening of August 10th, a military convoy carrying equipment for US forces near the Iraq-Kuwait border was reportedly targeted by an explosion. The Iraqi Shiite armed group, Ashab al-Kahf, issued a statement claiming that its forces had destroyed “equipment and vehicles belonging to the American enemy” in a bombing, targeting a border crossing south of the Iraqi city of Basra. The group also released a video purposely showing the attack.
Ashab al-Kahf is one of multiple anti-US resistance groups, which have surfaced in Iraq since early 2020 after the US assassination of Iran’s Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, the deputy chairman of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and several other prominent Iraqi officers leading the fight against ISIS in Iraq. All these new groups declare their goal to be forcing US troops to leave Iraq and conduct attacks on US military infrastructure and forces. This has already become an everyday reality for the US military.
Additionally to the August 10 attack, there were at least 4 more military incidents blamed by the US and mainstream media on these groups during the past weeks.
Early on August 12, 3 rockets fell near the US embassy building in the Baghdad Green Zone. No casualties were reported. On August 5, at least one rocket was launched at the US embassy area in Baghdad. The rocket was reportedly intercepted by the C-RAM [Counter-Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar] system which was recently deployed in the area by the U.S. military. On July 30, two rockets targeted the military section of the Baghdad International Airport, where US forces were deployed. On July 27, multiple rockets pounded the US-operated military base ‘Camp Taji’ north of Baghdad.
The structure and intensity of these attacks demonstrate that they are mostly aimed at pressuring the US military and political leadership into directing a troop withdrawal by creating a hostile environment rather than causing large-scale damage to US forces. If Washington decides to ignore them and accepts instead an increase in casualties in the region, such a resistance may continue for years without a breakthrough. Nevertheless, an especially successful rocket strike leading to significant casualties might well lead to an open military response from the United States. The most likely scenario would then be large-scale airstrikes on what Washington would call ‘Iranian and Iranian proxy targets’ in Iraq and eastern Syria. However, such an isolated even if powerful response would not be enough to change the situation strategically. Therefore, if the situation develops in the current direction, the low intensity conflict between the US and Iranian-led forces in Iraq would enter a lingering phase. The prospects for the stabilization of the economic and security situation in the country would be seriously in question.