There's yet more significant escalation in Iraq as it appears pro-Iranian militia forces may have 'hit back' in a potential retaliation strike against US forces, as the Pentagon has confirmed at least ten rockets were fired on the the Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq's Anbar province Wednesday morning.
There were initial reports of no casualties and Iraq's military reported "no significant losses". A US Coalition statement said that according to its initial assessment "10 IDF rockets targeted an Iraqi military base, Al Asad Airbase, hosting Coalition troops, on March 03, 2021 at approx 7:20 a.m. (Iraqi time)."
However, the AFP in the hours afterward reported the following death related to the security threat: "A civilian contractor with the US-led coalition in Iraq died of a heart attack during a rocket attack on the sprawling Ain al-Assad air base, Iraqi and Western security sources say."
It's the first such rocket fire on US facilities and assets in the region since the major US strike on Eastern Syria on Feb.25. Biden controversially authorized that attack which may have killed multiple 'Iranian militia' operating in the country in response to the prior rocket volley attack on Erbil Air Base last month.
That strike grabbed international attention given it was the first time Biden authorized a military attack on a foreign country's sovereign soil, the details of which has recently emerged as follows:
The Biden administration had earlier said it was unclear what the casualty toll was from the bombing raid, which was carried out in retaliation for a deadly rocket attack on a U.S.-led coalition base in northern Iraq as well as two other rocket attacks.
Two U.S. F-15 fighter jets dropped seven precision-guided bombs last Thursday on what the Pentagon said was a logistics hub for the Iranian-backed militias near Syria's border with Iraq. The Pentagon blamed the militias for the recent rocket attacks.
Further as AFP also underscores, this new assault is fourth time in less than three weeks that rockets hit a Western installation in Iraq.
Initial report: 10 IDF rockets targeted an Iraqi military base, Al Asad Airbase, hosting Coalition troops, on March 03, 2021 at approx 7:20 a.m. (Iraqi time). Iraqi SF are leading the response & investigation. Further information will be released as it becomes available.— OIR Spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto (@OIRSpox) March 3, 2021
"Western security sources told AFP the rockets were Iranian-made Arash models, which are 122mm artillery rockets and heavier than those seen in similar attacks," the report adds.
And crucially recall that Ain al-Asad base is the site of the major Iranian ballistic missile attack which rained down on coalition troops during the January 2020 retaliation for the US killing of IRGC General Qassem Soleimani.
The attack on the sprawling Ain al-Assad base in Iraq's western desert is the fourth time in less than three weeks that rockets hit a Western installation in the country https://t.co/fdxE1mHLJh pic.twitter.com/MrKSTPLbU4— AFP News Agency (@AFP) March 3, 2021
Also the attack comes a mere two days ahead of Pope Francis' scheduled visit to the country, which is the first time in history a Pope has traveled to Iraq, in what is expected to be a bit of a 'security nightmare' for local officials.