February 8, 2024 | Flash Brief

U.S. Drone Strike in Baghdad Kills Shiite Militia Commander

February 8, 2024 | Flash Brief

U.S. Drone Strike in Baghdad Kills Shiite Militia Commander

Latest Developments

A U.S. drone strike in Baghdad on February 7 killed a commander of an Iran-backed Shiite militia. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement that the strike was in response to attacks on U.S. servicemembers. According to CENTCOM, the leader was “responsible for directly planning and participating in attacks on U.S. forces in the region.” CENTCOM’s statement did not specifically reference the January 28 drone attack that killed three U.S. servicemembers at a military outpost in Jordan. 

The Associated Press, citing two Iran-backed militia officials, identified the U.S. target as Wissam Mohammed “Abu Baqir” al-Saadi, commander of Syria operations for Kataib Hezbollah. Kataib Hezbollah and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) reportedly said that the strike also killed another Kataib Hezbollah commander, Arkan al-Alawi. Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder pushed back against the reports on February 8, saying, “Initial assessments indicate that there were no additional militants injured or killed beyond the one Kataib Hezbollah commander who was targeted.” 

Expert Analysis

“When the U.S. military response is done, there needs to be a widespread understanding throughout the Middle East, including in Iran, that America responds ferociously when our troops are injured or killed. Tragically, that certainly has not always been the perception in the region in the past, and that undermines the protection of American national security interests and our troops.” Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power

“The United States needs to hold each and every IRGC proxy group commander accountable for the attacks on U.S. forces. If the United States had begun its counter-strike campaign in earnest last November or December, as we should have, a lot more of these commanders would be off the board.” RADM (Ret.) Mark Montgomery, FDD Senior Fellow and Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Cyber and Technology

Persistent Attacks by Iran-Backed Militias

Kataib Hezbollah is one of dozens of Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria. The groups have conducted strikes against U.S. forces in the region for years but have escalated to near-daily rocket and drone attacks after the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October. Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said on February 6 that Shiite militias have attacked U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria 168 times since October 17, with 67 attacks taking place in Syria, 100 in Iraq, and one in Jordan — killing three and wounding at least 140 others.

The United States first responded to the deadly attack in Jordan on February 2 by conducting airstrikes against 85 targets belonging to the IRGC and Iranian proxies. Ryder assessed the strikes as having good effects, saying on February 5 that U.S. forces “destroyed or functionally damaged” 80 of the 85 targets. According to Ryder, the facilities struck included “command-and-control operation centers, intelligence centers, rockets, missiles, unmanned aerial vehicle storage and logistics and munition supply chain facilities.”

The United States has previously targeted Kataib Hezbollah facilities on several occasions, including on November 22, December 25, and January 23. On January 4, a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad killed Abu Taqwa al-Jawari, the commander of another militia, Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba. So far, the comparatively limited responses by the United States have not prevented the militias from continuing to attack U.S. forces.

The truth of Biden’s ‘revenge’ on Iran,” by Mark Dubowitz and David Adesnik

Iran’s Proxies Continue Attacks Despite U.S. Strikes,” FDD Flash Brief

U.S. Strikes IRGC and Iranian-Backed Proxies in Iraq and Syria,” FDD Flash Brief

Pentagon: Deadly Attack on U.S. Soldiers Facilitated by Iran,” FDD Flash Brief


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