Five rocket attacks in a week target US in Iraq

The constant trickle of rockets is a message to the US, during the period of US-Iraq strategic dialogue, designed to show that pro-Iranian groups control Iraq and can do as they please.

US Army soldiers keep watch on the US embassy compound in Baghdad, Iraq January 1, 2020 (photo credit: DOD/LT. COL. ADRIAN WEALE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
US Army soldiers keep watch on the US embassy compound in Baghdad, Iraq January 1, 2020
(photo credit: DOD/LT. COL. ADRIAN WEALE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Almost every day since June 8, there have been rocket attacks in Iraq targeting US forces, the US embassy in the Green Zone or the airport in Baghdad. The constant trickle of rockets is a message to the US during the period of US-Iraq strategic dialogue that is designed to show that pro-Iranian groups control Iraq and can do as they please.
The recent salvos began with reports of a rocket attack near Baghdad airport on June 8. Then came a June 10 rocket attack near the Green Zone. On June 13, a 107mm katyusha rocket was fired at Camp Taji, where US forces are located. It was fired from near the base. The next night on June 14 more rockets were fired and a Bongo truck was found. This is the same model truck that Kataib Hezbollah has often used to mount the tubes necessary for firing the rockets.
The truck had configuration of rocket tubes arranges in ranks of five and four rows. This is similar to the incident in March where up to 18 rockets were fired, killing three members of the coalition. To conduct a rocket firing like this requires expertise and practice. The rockets must be positioned correctly and there is likely some kind of delay or system used as the perpetrators escape, leaving the rockets and trucks. In the June 14 case, a total of 16 unused rockets, in their tubes, were found.
This is also typical. The Iranian-backed groups often leave rockets behind as a message. It is not likely incompetence. The Kataib Hezbollah cadres are versed in rockets: They know this system and have been trained on it. They are likely “rocket men,” specially trained units with orders from the highest levels to target key US facilities.

KEY QUESTIONS remain over whether these rockets are designed to miss their target. Kataib Hezbollah has excellent intelligence about the movements of US forces and the layout of Camp Taji. They know, for instance, how to target the Union III base in Baghdad, near the US embassy. This base has seen troop levels reduced, according to a BBC report that found the place almost “empty” in late January.
It is reasonable to assume that pro-Iranian assets in Iraq – the ones who have infiltrated all levels of Iraq’s government, moving into the Interior Ministry and other areas, with thousands of people on payroll in Iraq – know the layout of these facilities and can plot where rockets will fall.
In such a scenario, the goal may not be to kill US personnel, because they know that President Donald Trump will retaliate. Washington has shown through airstrikes and targeted assassinations of key IRGC and Kataib leaders that killing will result in killing. This is “contested deterrence,” CENTCOM has said.
Iran should not test the US – and it knows this. Iraqi militias also know this. Whoever builds the Bongo truck and welds the rockets, knows this. Whoever drives it and backs it up and pulls up the welded tubes and arms the rockets, knows this. It is a deadly game that Kataib Hezbollah and other groups play. But they have nevertheless decided to increase the number of incidents in recent weeks.
We know that on June 16 after midnight, more rockets were fired near Baghdad airport. That makes two nights of firing at Camp Taji, two attacks near the airport and one near the US embassy. This is like a kind of map, showing where US forces are or can be threatened.
Iraq’s Security Media Cell has revealed and condemned the attacks. The recent one near the airport was not like the others, in that it used a wood plank and ice cream container. It is therefore not clear who did it. The Iraqi officials are upset at the rocket fire but do not know what to do. And the US-led coalition has not retaliated and is unlikely to retaliate unless there are injuries or casualties.


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