US Launches Airstrikes Against Iranian-Backed Militias in Iraq After 3 Soldiers Wounded in Drone Attack

The US military conducted airstrikes on three Kataib Hezbollah targets in Iraq on Christmas Day.


The US military conducted airstrikes on three Kataib Hezbollah targets in Iraq on Christmas Day after the Iranian-backed militia launched a drone attack on a US base in northern Iraq injuring two American soldiers and leaving a third in critical condition.

  • President Joe Biden authorized Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to conduct retaliatory actions against three Kataib Hezbollah facilities. US Central Command said in a statement that the strikes “destroyed the targeted facilities and likely killed a number of Kataib Hezbollah militants.” 
  • “The President places no higher priority than the protection of American personnel serving in harm’s way,” the statement continued. “The United States will act at a time and in a manner of our choosing should these attacks continue.” 
  • Iranian-backed militant groups in Iraq and Syria have carried out 103 attacks against US forces in the Levant since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas War. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of several Iranian-funded militias, has claimed responsibility for many of the attacks. 
  • The Israeli military carried out its own airstrike against Iranian assets in the region on Christmas Day, targeting a senior Iranian military commander outside of Damascus. The Israeli attack killed Sayyed Razi Mousavi, a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officer who coordinates Iran’s operations in Syria. 
  • The US was not the only large NATO country to launch airstrikes on targets in Iraq on Christmas Day. Turkey’s air force targeted Kurdish militants in northern Iraq and Syria after weekend clashes between Turkish troops and Kurdish separatists left 12 soldiers dead.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • “After Mr. Biden was informed of the Erbil attack on Christmas morning, he ordered the Defense Department to prepare response options, White House officials said,” according to the New York Times. “Later in the day, the president authorized strikes that were conducted around 8:45 p.m. Eastern time. Mr. Biden chose Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated facilities that had been used to launch unmanned aerial drone attacks, officials said.”
  • CNN noted the Iraqi government’s narrative of the attack differed from the Biden administration’s assessments. Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani called the strikes “hostile acts” that “infringe upon Iraq’s sovereignty and are deemed unacceptable under any circumstances or justification.” Al-Sudani also claimed 1 “serviceman” was killed and 18 others – “including civilians” – were injured in the US retaliatory strikes. 
  • The Washington Post reported “A senior Kataib Hezbollah official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said the group’s operations against U.S. forces in Iraq are partly because of the United States’ support for Israel in its war with Hamas, and also because it considers the U.S. presence in Iraq an ‘occupation.’ ‘Our operations will continue until the departure of the last American soldier,’ the official said.”



  • “This is the fifth time the U.S. has taken a military response against such groups in Iraq and Syria since those groups, which are considered to be backed and aligned with Iran,” the Wall Street Journal noted. “Attacks against American troops there have come close, but haven’t yet killed any American troops. One American contractor died of cardiac arrest following an earlier attack in Iraq, and a dud drone landed on a barracks in a separate attack.” 
  • The New York Post observed the extent of the three wounded Americans’ injuries is not yet clear, and all three were serving at the US base in Erbil at the time of the attack. Erbil is the largest city in Iraqi Kurdistan, the semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq primarily populated by Kurds, who have been some of America’s staunchest allies in the region. 
  • National Review pointed out the drone attack just the latest of more than 100 attacks on US forces in the region since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas War. It’s not unreasonable to conclude that the administration’s tepid responses to the first 100 attacks allowed Kataib Hezbollah to think it could act with impunity – and now 3 Americans are in the hospital.


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© Dominic Moore, 2023