With U.S. troops in Iraq and neighboring Syria under regular attack by militias aligned with Iran, an Iraqi official told Newsweek that the country is working to rein in armed factions seeking to open a new front hundreds of miles away from Israel’s war in Gaza.
But Baghdad must seek a careful balance, as its government, led by Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, looks to avoid direct conflict with powerful forces opposed to the U.S. military presence in the country.
“The government cannot enter into an open military confrontation with any armed group, because that destabilizes Iraq and causes the participation of most groups in an open war,” the Iraqi official told Newsweek on the condition of anonymity. “We do not want the battle to move from Gaza to the streets of Baghdad, and this is certainly not in the interest of protecting the missions, diplomacy and international coalition forces in Iraq.”
As such, the official said that “the correct situation is for the government to resort to accommodation, appeasement, persuasion and pressure, in order to control matters completely without devastating collateral damage.” “The government is making great private efforts, away from the media, to stop the attacks, and seeks to calm and persuade the attacking groups to stop the attacks.”
Iraq has long found itself caught in the crossfire of U.S.-Iran tensions, but the current crisis is already proving to be among the most serious threats to stability in years.
The unprecedented October 7 surprise attack conducted by Hamas and allied Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip against Israel, and the subsequent largest-ever Israeli campaign against the Palestinian territory, have had seismic effects across the region. In Lebanon, the powerful Hezbollah movement has escalated clashes along the border with Israel, while Yemen’s Ansar Allah, or Houthi movement, has conducted missile and drone attacks from more than 1,000 miles away.
In Iraq, where an array of militias aligned with Iran remain active since the U.S. invasion toppled President Saddam Hussein two decades ago and the more recent rise and fall of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) over the past 10 years, armed factions have taken the fight to U.S. troops.
Since October 17, the same day Israel and Palestinian factions blamed one another for a deadly strike on the Al-Ahli Arab Baptist Hospital in Gaza, a group calling itself “the Islamic Resistance in Iraq” has claimed rocket and drone attacks on a daily basis against U.S. soldiers stationed at various sites in Iraq and Syria.
While the only recorded fatality has been by cardiac arrest of a contractor during a reported false alarm in Syria, at least 56 U.S. troops have been injured, according to the Pentagon.