The White House is warning that the U.S. may consider a military response to the rocket attack that hit an air base in western Iraq where American and coalition troops are houses.
A U.S. contractor died after at least 10 rockets slammed into the base early Wednesday.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby says the contractor “suffered a cardiac episode while sheltering” and died shortly afterward.
It was the first such attack since the U.S. struck Iran-aligned militia targets along the Iraq-Syria border last week, killing one militiaman.
That strike stoked fears of another cycle of tit-for-tat attacks. No one claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack.
US warns of military response to rocket attack on Iraq base.
Wednesday’s death of the contractor heightens worries that the U.S. could be drawn into another period of escalating attacks, complicating the Biden administration’s desire to open talks with Iran over the 2015 nuclear deal.
The latest attack also comes two days before Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Iraq despite concerns about security and the coronavirus pandemic. The much-anticipated trip will include stops in Baghdad, southern Iraq and the northern city of Irbil.
The rockets struck Ain al-Asad airbase in Anbar province early in the morning, U.S.-led coalition spokesperson Col. Wayne Marotto said. Kirby said the rockets were fired from east of the base, and that counter-rocket defensive systems were used to defend forces at the base.
Kirby said the U.S. can’t attribute responsibility for the attack yet, and that the extent of the damage was still being assessed.
It’s the same base that Iran struck with a barrage of missiles in January of last year in retaliation for the killing of Soleimani. Dozens of U.S. service members suffered concussions in that strike.
The Iraqi military released a statement saying that Wednesday’s attack did not cause significant losses and that security forces had found the launch pad used for the rockets – a truck. Video of the site shows a burning truck in a desert area.
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