The killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Brigadier General Mohsen Fakhrizadeh on November 27th brought a new wave of tensions in the already tense relationship between the United States and Iran. While it's not known who exactly is responsible for Fakhrizadeh's assassination it is widely believed throughout the world that the US and Israel both played a significant role. If those speculations are true, that would make this the second assassination of a general grade officer of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) carried out in some degree by the US. Iran is clearly angered by the killing (that took place only some 70km away from Tehran) and has vowed to retaliate numerous times, presumably against Israel and the US.
On Sunday, December 20th, 21 rockets were launched at the US Embassy in Baghdad during the night by an unknown “outlaw group”, as described by the Iraqi government. Multiple videos across social media show C-RAM (Counter rocket, artillery, and mortar) systems engaging the rockets in order to destroy them in the air. Despite those efforts at least eight rockets impacted inside The Green Zone, according to Iraqi officials. At least one Iraqi soldier was wounded and multiple buildings were damaged by the rockets. In a picture tweeted by President Trump, the rockets appeared to be Iranian-made “Haseb” 107mm rockets (thanks to @CalibreObscure on Twitter for the identification). The attack was condemned by Kata’ib Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Iraqi militia responsible for multiple attacks on US forces in the past year, including the attack on the Baghdad embassy on New Year’s Eve, 2019. However, US Central Command has stated with complete confidence that Iranian backed militias are responsible for the Sunday attack.
Today, December 23rd, in a response to his previously mentioned tweet President Trump stated, “(s)ome friendly health advice to Iran: If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over.” Set to leave office in just 27 days, many believe that the President could launch some sort of attack on Iran or its proxies to deter any potential action on US forces in the region. Also today, Reuters reported that top national security officials met at the White House to discuss a variety of options to deter Iran from attacking US military and diplomatic personnel in Iraq. Few details from this meeting were reported but one interesting report did state that the Baghdad Embassy could be closed; an assertion that has been touted multiple times throughout the year. Among the officials were Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien. Lastly, according to some reports, commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani, was in Baghdad today for several hours. It’s not clear what Ghaani was doing in the city but this does comes close to the January 3rd anniversary of his predecessor’s assassination by a US drone strike, Major General Qassem Soleimani.
The situation remains very tense. With both the anniversary of the 2019 embassy attack and Soleimani’s killing coming up soon, no one is quite sure what to expect from either side.
Until then, stay safe and have a good one