The Biden administration is already facing its first significant Iraq crisis following the year-long escalation with pro-Iranian Iraqi paramilitary forces in the country on the heels of Trump's ordered assassination of IRGC Gen. Qassem Soleimani and militia commander Abu Mahdi al-
The White House now says it has "the right to respond at the time and place of our choosing," according to the latest statement in response to questions of who was behind a major Monday night rocket attack on an American military base in Iraqi Kurdistan.
"We’re still working through attribution with our Iraqi partners to determine precise attribution for this attack," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said reporters. In particular Psaki suggested a retaliatory strike is likely coming.
The Monday night attack killed an international contractor and wounded at least one American soldier. Multiple US military contractors were also among the wounded.
Video of one of the rockets impacting near the base:
Last night, a total of 14 rocket rounds fired at US base in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region.— ILKHA (@IlkhaAgency) February 16, 2021
1 civilian contractor killed, 5 civilian contractors injured & 1 US service member injured as a result of the attack. #Erbil #Kurdistan #اربيل أمريكا pic.twitter.com/IpbOGVoOBH
Some of the details were relayed in international reports as follows:
Fourteen rockets were fired toward Erbil Air Base in Iraq's Kurdistan region late Monday night, with three hitting the facilities where U.S. troops are based, according to Col. Wayne Marotto, U.S. spokesperson for the U.S.-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State.
One civilian contractor, who was not American, was killed, and nine others were injured, including one U.S. service member and four U.S. civilian contractors, Marotto said Tuesday.
It constitutes the single biggest rocket attack on a US base of the Biden presidency.
While an obscure group called Awliya al-Dam took credit for the attack, US intelligence is said to be closely eyeing Iran-backed militia groups, also after a recent uptick in rocket volleys fired on the US Embassy in Baghdad.
Seeing international reports which pointed the finger at Iran (also based on some statements of Kurdish officials apparently), Iran vehemently denied it was behind the Erbil attack, with Tehran officials calling it "suspicious".
"Suspicious attempts to link the Erbil attacks to Iran are condemned," Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said according to state-run IRNA. "Iran considers the stability and security of Iraq central to the region and its neighbors, and rejects any attempt that disturbs the peace and order of the country,” he added.