The Iranian-U.S. Confrontation in Iraq Grows Hotter

Dec 30, 2019 | 21:44 GMT

Protesters waving the Iraqi flag alongside one of an armed network march in Basra to denounce U.S. airstrikes that killed dozens of Iraqi militia members.

Iraqis wave both the national flag and one from a paramilitary group in Basra on Dec. 30, 2019, during a demonstration to denounce U.S. airstrikes that killed dozens of members of an Iranian-linked militia.

(HUSSEIN FALEH/AFP via Getty Images)


  • U.S. airstrikes targeting Iran-allied militias in Iraq mark a notable escalation in the confrontation between Iran and the United States that could lead to even more attacks within Iraq.
  • Because it's unlikely that Iranian-allied militias will stop their harassment of U.S. targets in Iraq, U.S. forces and assets there remain at risk.
  • The escalation will strain U.S.-Iraqi relations and could result in a legal petition seeking to force the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. This will leave the government in Baghdad with a dilemma over how to maintain valuable U.S. security assistance while also asserting sovereignty.

The U.S. military response against an Iraqi paramilitary group closely affiliated with Iran has further increased the risk that an escalatory pattern of violence between Iran (and its proxies) and the United States will develop. Three U.S. airstrikes on Dec. 29 targeted positions in Iraq where the Iranian-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah has a presence; concurrent airstrikes hit two of the militia's positions in Syria near Qaim, an Iraqi border city. The airstrikes came in retaliation for a Dec. 27 rocket attack against the K-1 base near Kirkuk that killed a U.S. civilian contractor....

Keep Reading

Register to read three free articles

Proceed to sign up

Register Now

Already have an account?

Sign In