US warns of retaliating rocket attack on Iraq base

The United States has warned that it may consider a military response to the rocket attack on Wednesday that hit an airbase in western Iraq where American and coalition troops are housed, raising concerns this could trigger a new round of escalating violence.

During the rocket attacks, a US contractor died after at least 10 of the rockets slammed into the base. And while no group claimed responsibility, it was the first strike since the US bombed Iran-aligned militia targets along the Iraq-Syria border last week.

Heightened tensions with Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq could lead to more attacks, complicating the Biden administration’s desire to open talks with Iran over the 2015 nuclear deal, as well as the ongoing US strategy to focus more attention on Asia.

Speaking to reporters about the attack, President Joe Biden said, “We are following that through right now.” He added, “Thank God, no one was killed by the rocket, but one individual, a contractor, died of a heart attack. But we’re identifying who”s responsible and we”ll make judgments” about a response.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary suggested that the “calculated” US airstrikes last week could be a model for a military response. Those strikes were in response to an attack on American forces in northern Iraq earlier in February.

“If we assess further response is warranted, we will take action again in a manner and time of our choosing,” Psaki said.

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Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said the US contractor “suffered a cardiac episode while sheltering” from the attack and died shortly afterward. He said there were no service members injured and all are accounted for. British and Danish troops also are among those stationed at the base.

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