More US troops to Iraq?

An Iraqi military official on Jan. 15 denied reports of a deployment of more US troops to the country, asserting that Baghdad does not need foreign forces. CBS News reported the previous day that 1,500 troops from the New Jersey National Guard are being sent to Iraq and Syria to join the US-led coalition established to fight ISIS. This would constitute the largest reserve deployment out of New Jersey since 2008. CBS cited the state's Gov. Phil Murphy as saying the troops were being mobilized for Operation Inherent Resolve. But the report was refuted by Maj. Gen. Tahsin al-Khafaji, the head of Iraq's Security Media Cell—a body that officially cooperates with the US-led coalition to counter online disinformation.

Khafaji stressed that Iraq "does not need any foreign forces, and the presence of the global coalition is limited to providing advice, training, and security information."

Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani announced earlier this month the Iraqi government "is in the process of setting the date to start working on the bilateral committee to make arrangements to permanently end the presence of the international coalition forces in Iraq."

Around 2,500 US troops are currently in Iraq, and 900 in Syria. Over the past weeks, the US has carried out multiple retaliatory strikes on Iran-aligned factions in Iraq and Syria, without the approval of the Iraqi government.

In November US warplanes struck pro-Iran fighters in Jurf al-Nasr (formerly Jurf al-Sakhar) in northern Babil province. The strike was "vehemently" condemned by Basem al-Awadi, spokesperson for the Iraqi government, who labeled it as a "blatant violation of sovereignty and an attempt to destabilize the security situation."

Prime Minister Sudani in a phone call in December warned US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin against taking any direct response to militia attacks without approval from Baghdad.

The Pentagon said in a press release that in the phone call with Sudani, Austin "underscored that the United States reserves the right to act in self-defense against those launching any attack against US personnel."

The Pentagon blames two Iran-backed militia groups, Kataib Hezbollah and Harakat al-Nujaba, for most of the attacks. Both groups are designated "terrorist organizations" by the US.

A US drone strike on Jan. 4 targeted a logistical support base of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Baghdad, killing two leaders including Mushtaq Talib al-Saeedi AKA Abu Taqwa, a former commander of Harakat al-Nujaba and deputy commander of the PMF's Baghdad Belt Operations. Baghdad blasted the coalition for the "unprovoked attack on an Iraqi security body." (Rudaw)  

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Jan. 16 claimed responsibility for a ballistic missile attack on the Kurdistan Region's capital of Erbil that killed at least four civilians. The IRGC said the strikes hit an Israeli "spy headquarters" and anti-Iran groups operating in the region. (Rudaw, Haaretz)

US personnel injured in missile attack on Iraq airbase

A number of US military personnel have been injured in a missile attack on an airbase in western Iraq. US Central Command said an Iran-backed militia targeted al-Asad airbase with ballistic missiles and rockets on Jan. 20. 

The strike was claimed by a group calling itself the Islamic Resistance in Iraq. According to the US-based Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the group emerged in late 2023 and is comprised of several Iran-affiliated armed groups operating in Iraq. It has claimed other attacks against US forces in recent weeks. (BBC News)

The attack follows presumed Israeli air-strikes that killed high-level Iranian officers in Syria.

US carries out more strikes on Iranian-backed militias in Iraq

The US carried out air-strikes in Iraq targeting facilities used by Kataib Hezbollah and other Tehran-affiliated groups. The strikes were carried out at two sites in western Iraq, including Al-Qa'im near the Syrian border, as well as Jurf al-Sakhar south of Baghdad. (CNN)

ISIS attack on army post in eastern Iraq

An Iraqi commanding officer and four soldiers were killed and five others injured on May 13 in an attack by suspected ISIS militants on an army post in eastern Iraq. The attack took place between Diyala and Salahuddin provinces, a rural area that remains a hotbed of insurgency years after Baghdad declared final victory over ISIS in 2017. (Al Arabiya)