A civilian contractor was killed after a pro-Iranian group attacked a US military base in Iraq. There were no American deaths, though one US soldier was injured, along with five other foreign contactors. In Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq where the attack took place, three people were injured, one critically. The casualties occurred after approximately 14 rockets were fired at a US military base near Erbil International Airport, three of which actually landed inside the base.
The group behind the attack, ‘the Guardians of the Blood Brigade’ militia, says it launched the attack against the ‘American occupation’. The group is one of a number of Iranian backed groups which have surged in both power and popularity since they successfully fought against ISIS in Iraq. After ISIS’ defeat, many of the groups remained powerful, and some even became political parties. They did well in the 2018 Iraqi election, with one militia even increasing its share of the seats from one in 2014 to 15 in 2018.
Yet, Iraq isn’t the only country plagued with Iranian-backed militias. In Yemen, for example, the Houthi rebels now control around 80% of the population, despite Saudi-led efforts to push them back. In Lebanon, Iran infamously supports the Hezbollah group, who lost a war against Israel in 2006. Iran is also a powerful force in Syria, where it supports the brutal regime of Bashar Al-Assad in the Syrian Civil War.
In January 2020, Former President Trump made the controversial decision to assassinate top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, who had played a key role in organising and coordinating various proxy militias, in an attempt to curtail Iranian influence. This was somewhat successful, as Soleimani was an irreplaceable ace of the Iranian government and was responsible for much of the expansion of Iran’s regional power. Nonetheless, Iran continues to be strong in the Middle east, and retaliated shortly after Soleimani’s death with rocket strikes on a US military base in Iraq.
You would be forgiven in thinking that that, with Iran looking more menacing than ever before, Biden would be seeking closer ties with the only three Middle Eastern powers with the capability to take it on, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. All three countries have been reliable allies to the US, yet Biden’s administration is seeking to distance itself from them, pleasing leftists but destabilising a region which the Former President tried to bring peace to.
Biden hasn’t even bothered to call Israeli prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, nor has he called the de-facto ruler of Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave a blistering speech yesterday, in which he accused the US of supporting PKK terrorists, after the State Department issued a statement sidestepping blaming the PKK for the murder of 13 Turkish civilians. The State department did subsequently release a second statement directly condemning the terrorists, but the damage to America’s relations with Turkey had already been done.
With Biden and Secretary of state Anthony Blinken ripping up the rulebook when it comes to foreign policy, the future position of America, its allies, and Iran in the world look uncertain. Blinken said he was ‘outraged’ by the recent attack on the American base. However, some are worried that unless he takes decisive action, and strengthens ties with existing allies in the Middle east, he will be ‘outraged’ many more times.