Iraqi government examines in-country missile attacks on U.S. bases

Paratroopers with 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, conduct a live-fire exercise and range with coalition partners near Irbil Air Base, Iraq, Dec. 3, 2020. Irbil Air Base was attacked by rockets, Feb. 15, 2021. (Army photograph by Maj. Russell Gordo)

The Iraqi government is investigating three attacks on U.S. bases in the country and is doing a careful and complete job, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said.

“We had a very good discussion with our Iraqi partners a couple of weeks ago, in the wake of the Irbil attacks,” Kirby told reporters Feb. 23. “They made it very clear to the [secretary of defense] that they’re taking this seriously, and they want the chance to investigate it for themselves … we’re going to let them do that.”

The attack in Irbil killed a U.S. contractor and wounded a service member and others, while the attack in Baghdad’s Green Zone caused property damage. In addition, an attack at Balad Air Base wounded personnel.

Despite the suspicions about the source of the weapons used and who backed those responsible, Kirby said the attacks remain unrelated to any diplomatic activities that may be happening between the U.S. and Iran.

Rubble remains after an indirect fire attack at Irbil Air Base in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Feb. 15, 2021. (Army photograph by Maj. Brian Burns)

“This has nothing to do with … any diplomatic efforts that may or may not be happening,” he said. “It has to do with trying to make sure we judge accountability the right way. And that’s what the secretary wants to give our Iraqi partners the time and space to do.”

Despite that commitment, Kirby said the Defense Department is aware of the threat Iran continues to pose in the region.

“Nobody’s backing away from the significant security challenges that Iran still poses, … and we’ve not been bashful about that at all,” he said. “And nobody also is in a rush to judgment here on these particular attacks … historically, we have seen these attacks from Shia-backed militias on our facilities, our people, and those of the Iraqis, as well, being conducted with weaponry, rockets that have Iranian origin.”

Kirby said the department has concerns Iranians are using proxies in the Middle East to create insecurity and instability in the region. “Their malign activities in the region are a matter of record,” he said. “And nothing has changed about our desire to be able to address those malign activities in the appropriate way.”

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