December 27, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Strikes Iraqi Militia After Three Servicemembers Injured

December 27, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Strikes Iraqi Militia After Three Servicemembers Injured

Latest Developments

President Joe Biden ordered a rare strike on December 25 against positions of an Iran-backed terrorist group in Iraq. According to a statement from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, U.S. forces conducted strikes on three facilities used by the Shiite militia Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups. According to Reuters, the strike killed one Kataib Hezbollah fighter and wounded 16 others. Austin said that the strike was in response to the group’s drone attack on Erbil Air Base in Iraq, where three U.S. servicemembers were injured, including one critically. Kataib Hezbollah — also known as the Hezbollah Brigades — is part of the Popular Mobilization Forces.

“And let me be clear — the President and I will not hesitate to take necessary action to defend the United States, our troops, and our interests. There is no higher priority,” Austin said in the statement. “While we do not seek to escalate conflict in the region, we are committed and fully prepared to take further necessary measures to protect our people and our facilities.”

Expert Analysis

“Iran continues to direct attacks on U.S. forces because its leaders believe they will face no consequences. The U.S. needs to strike the IRGC commanders coordinating these militia attacks, not just the militias themselves.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

“Deterrence was not lost overnight and will not be gained overnight. A firmer kinetic response and an improvement in the response ratio between Washington and Iran-backed militias in Iraq is urgently needed. Until then, limited strikes are unlikely to deter these groups or signal resolve against their patron in Tehran.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

U.S. Rarely Responds to Attacks

Iran-backed Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria began attacking U.S. forces in the region on October 17 as retaliation for U.S. support of Israel in its war on the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip. The militias have attacked U.S. positions in Iraq and Syria more than 100 times. Yet, fearing an escalation, America has responded only a handful of times with limited airstrikes.

U.S. forces conducted an airstrike on weapons and ammunition storage facilities belonging to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Syria on October 26. As attacks still continued, U.S. aircraft struck another IRGC storage facility in Syria on November 8, followed by a strike on an Iranian proxy storage facility and command center on November 13.

Iraq’s Government Condemns U.S. Strike

Iraq’s government said in a statement that the U.S. strikes were “an unacceptable violation of Iraqi sovereignty.” Baghdad also criticized Kataib Hezbollah, saying that the attacks on bases that host U.S.-led military advisors were hostile acts. Officially, Kataib Hezbollah is controlled by Iraq’s prime minister, but in practice, the group is more loyal to the regime in Iran. Abu Ali al-Askari, a senior official with the group, fired back at the government’s statement, saying, “We warn those with weak souls, from the highest level to the lowest, not to test our patience.”

Iraqi government ‘condemns’ retaliatory U.S. airstrikes on Hezbollah Brigades,” by Bill Roggio

U.S. military strikes Hezbollah Brigades in Iraq after soldiers wounded in drone strike,” by Joe Truzman and Bill Roggio

U.S. Military Strikes Iran-Backed Groups in Syria,” FDD Flash Brief

U.S. Strikes IRGC Weapon and Ammunition Facilities in Syria,” FDD Flash Brief


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Military and Political Power U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy