Did President Biden just pull a Trump? It appears so. There's been an assassination by drone strike of a high-ranking member of the Iran-linked militant group Kataib Hezbollah in Baghdad Wednesday night. The operation appears similar to the 2020 killing of Gen. Soleimani by drone strike on his convoy outside Baghdad's airport.
Several blasts were heard in the Iraqi capital after which an SUV was seen engulfed in a large blaze. A security official has been quoted in one prominent regional newspaper as saying, "The car belonged to the Popular Mobilization Forces," in reference to the pro-Iran Shia militia which works closely in tandem with Iraq's national army. "At least two PMF leaders were inside the car," the security source said.
The high-ranking militia member is being initially identified as Wissam Mohammed Al Saiedi according to early reports. A Kataib Hezbollah associated Telegram channel has since mourned "the engineer of the missiles of the Iraqi resistance." An initial statement from the Baghdad police indicated "A car was on fire in Baghdad's eastern neighborhood of Al Mashtal." Additionally the statement said "it was probably hit by a missile fired from a drone. We are investigating.”
Israeli media is reporting:
"Two officials with Iranian-backed militias in Iraq said that one of those killed was Wissam Mohammed "Abu Bakr" al—Saadi, the commander in charge of Kataib Hezbollah's operations in Syria."
Within hours later, the Pentagon has owned up to the attack with the following Central Command statement:
At 9:30 p.m. (Baghdad Time) February 7, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) forces conducted a unilateral strike in Iraq in response to the attacks on U.S. service members, killing a Kata’ib Hezbollah commander responsible for directly planning and participating in attacks on U.S. forces in the region.
There are no indications of collateral damage or civilian casualties at this time. The United States will continue to take necessary action to protect our people. We will not hesitate to hold responsible all those who threaten our forces’ safety.
Initial unverified photos appeared to show the remains of a hellfire missile that smashed into the vehicle, interestingly with cash scattered amid the burning wreckage...
Very quickly after the car was hit, and word spread of the targeted strike, Iran-linked Telegram channels reportedly urged Iraqi men to head to the US Embassy in the Green Zone to protest, so there remains a likelihood that there could be unrest there overnight, though the complex is heavily secured.
This new assassination follows on the heels of last Friday major airstrikes against 'Iran-linked' targets in Syria and Iraq, which appears to have not thwarted the Iranian proxies, given sporadic attacks on US bases in the region have continued. The US has sought to retaliate and reestablish deterrence for the prior killing of three Army soldiers at Tower 22 base in Jordan by drone attack.
Analysts have continued speculating over the identifies of the deceased militia leaders...
Pro-#IRGCterrorists Telegram accounts are reporting two senior commanders of Kataib #Hezbollah, Abu Baqir Al-Saadi and Arkan Al-Alawi, were killed tonight in the targeted drone strike tonight in #Iraq. The U.S. assessed Kataib Hezbollah was likely behind the deaths of three… pic.twitter.com/XSg6ZdCkBk— Jason Brodsky (@JasonMBrodsky) February 7, 2024
This fresh incident is also an indicator that the Biden White House is also launching a fresh campaign of targeted assassinations of militia leadership. But as some have observed, the Popular Mobilization Forces are essentially part of the national forces, and work hand and glove.
Geopolitical blog Moon of Alabama writes, "Kataib Hezbollah is an Iraqi PMF militia which are part of the official Iraqi security forces under the Ministry of Interior. Any attack on Kataib is an attack on the state of Iraq." Likely this is going to increase calls within Iraqi parliament to force all remaining American advisers and troops out of the country.