Satellite images reveal the extent of the damage caused by the Biden administration’s first military action –

Satellite images reveal the extent of the damage caused by the Biden administration’s first military action

What you probably heard was the sound of seven 500-pound bombs hitting an enclosure near the border. The complex, according to the Pentagon, was used by two Iraqi militias affiliated with Iran, Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid Al-Shuhada.

Before-and-after satellite images released by Maxar Technologies, a space technology company, clearly show just how much destruction those bombs caused.

The “before” image shows a complex, just over a third of a kilometer (about 370 yards) from the Iraqi border, containing about a dozen buildings of various sizes. In the “after” image, almost all the buildings have been destroyed and the land in and around the compound blackened from the explosions.

It is not clear how many militiamen died. Kata’ib Hezbollah recognized only one dead, without specifying where on the Iraq-Syrian border he died. One US official said “up to a handful” died, while other reports say between 17 and 22 people died.

The Pentagon says the attack was a US response to a series of recent rocket and mortar attacks against the United States and coalition positions in Iraq. On February 15, a rocket barrage hit the Erbil International Airport grounds and residential areas of the city, killing a contractor and wounding several US personnel and Iraqi civilians. Baghdad’s Green Zone, where the US embassy is located, has been a regular target of mortar and rocket fire. Kata’ib Hezbollah has repeatedly denied any involvement in these attacks, and did so again in a statement issued on Friday.

Pentagon officials told CNN that the compound he was targeting was unrelated to these attacks, but Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he was “sure” it was used by the same militias against US and coalition forces in Iraq with rocket attacks.

Biden sends a message to Iran, but with a scalpel instead of a mallet

The armed groups allegedly using it, Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid Al-Shuhada, are just two of a myriad of militias that stood out during the war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, filling the void left by an Iraqi army. . that he was in full retreat.

I spent long periods of time in 2015 and 2016 with some of those militias as they fought their way north from Baghdad. Some were well organized and disciplined, others radical and volatile.

Its commanders were never ashamed of the support they received from Iran.

“Yes, we declare it to the world, we have Iranian advisers,” Hadi Al-Amari, a senior commander of the pro-Iranian Iraqi Badr Brigades, told me in 2015 on the front lines outside the city of Tikrit, then under control. of ISIS. “We are proud of them and we deeply appreciate their participation with us.”

Nearby, I met an Iranian in combat uniform, who told me in broken Arabic that he was a volunteer.

A militia commander told me that at the time, “it was better to have four Iranian advisers on the front line than 400 American advisers sitting in Baghdad’s Green Zone.”

But that was a different time. The Iranian nuclear deal was being negotiated. The United States and Iran were working, not together but in parallel, to support the Iraqi government in the fight against ISIS.
The tough message Biden just sent to Iran

Since then, Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have grown increasingly powerful, while relations between Washington and Tehran have deteriorated dramatically.

The United States withdrew from the nuclear deal under the Trump administration, imposed increasingly draconian sanctions on Iran, and was on the brink of war on several occasions, especially after the United States assassinated Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force. and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, deputy chief of the Iranian-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, one of the leaders of the Badr Brigades and founder of Kata’ib Hezbollah, near the Baghdad airport.

Now the United States is in a situation where it hopes to make clear that it will not tolerate further attacks by Iranian-backed militias against its positions in Iraq, but at the same time wants to reopen a dialogue with Iran. Sending that message without burning the bridges it is trying to build to Tehran will not be an easy task.

Friday’s attack was the first known military action taken by the Biden administration, making it the seventh consecutive US administration to use military force in the Middle East.

Administrations are coming in Washington. Administrations in Washington go. Some things, however, never change.


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