February 23, 2024

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War between Israel and Hamas, Iran Live News: US considers response to drone strike

War between Israel and Hamas, Iran Live News: US considers response to drone strike

In a surprise move, an Iran-linked militia in Iraq, which US officials say may have been responsible for a deadly drone attack on a US base in Jordan over the weekend, announced on Tuesday that it would suspend its military operations in Iraq under pressure from Iraqi forces. The government and Iran.

The announcement came shortly after President Biden said he had decided how to respond to the attack in Jordan on Sunday that killed three American soldiers, though he did not say what the response would be. His comment raised fears in Iraq of a possible American retaliatory attack on its territory.

The Kataib Hezbollah militia, or Kataib Hezbollah, is the largest and most prestigious Iran-linked group operating in Iraq. It has led the majority of the 160 attacks on US military facilities in Iraq and Syria that have occurred since Israel began ground operations in Gaza, in response to the October 7 Hamas-led attack from the Strip.

The US military has about 2,500 soldiers in Iraq to advise and train the Iraqi army, and about 900 soldiers in Syria to support the Syrian Kurdish defense forces in their fight against ISIS.

Kataib Hezbollah is part of what is known as the Axis of Resistance, a network of Iranian-backed groups that operates in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and sometimes further afield. (Kata’ib Hezbollah is separate from the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon.)

The Pentagon said in the days following the drone attack in Jordan that Kataib Hezbollah was likely responsible. But White House spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday that US intelligence agencies believe a larger umbrella network, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, “planned, resourced and facilitated” the drone strike.

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He added that Kataib Hezbollah is part of that network, but did not specifically mention whether the group played a role in the attack.

The other two Iraqi groups believed to have participated in attacks on American targets – Harakat al-Nujaba and Sayyid al-Shuhada – have not announced that they will stop the attacks.

The leader of the Hezbollah Brigades, Abu Hussein Al-Hamidawi, said in a statement: “We announce the suspension of military and security operations against the occupation forces – to prevent embarrassing the Iraqi government.” This was the first time that the militia publicly announced the suspension of operations.

The statement explained that Iran pressured the group to stop attacks on American forces and that Kataib Hezbollah was not happy about that. The group has been careful to suggest that it chooses its goals and timing, rather than following Iran's orders.

The statement said: “Our brothers in the axis, especially in the Islamic Republic of Iran, do not know how we carry out our jihad, and they often object to the pressure and escalation against the American occupation forces in Iraq and Syria.”

In response to a question about Kataib Hezbollah’s announcement, Defense Department spokesman, Major General Pat Ryder, said in a press conference at the Pentagon: “I have no specific comment to make other than actions speak louder than words.”

He added: “I will refrain from writing editorials about this type of comment after more than 160 attacks against American forces.”

Interviews conducted with Iraqi and Iranian officials close to both governments indicate that there have been intense negotiations in recent days aimed at pushing Kataib Hezbollah to stop its attacks.

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Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani began pressing for a halt to operations several weeks ago, according to senior government advisers. He was seeking to begin negotiations on a final withdrawal of the US-led international military presence in Iraq, but the American side did not want to negotiate while under fire, according to Iraqi and American officials.

Ultimately, the United States agreed to begin talks with no guarantee that the attacks would stop, but with a clear push in that direction.

Kataib Hezbollah and other groups have ignored the Iraqi government's demand to step down, but once the attack in Jordan on Sunday killed two Americans, Mr. Sudani demanded a complete cessation of Kataib Hezbollah. Mr. Sudani communicated directly with Iran, according to a military strategist in the Revolutionary Guards who works closely with Axis groups in Iraq.

Mr. Soudani made the argument that he was trying to negotiate what Iran wants more than ever — an end to the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq — and that the Kataib Hezbollah attacks undermine his government’s ability to do so, according to an Iranian military strategist and an Iranian military official. A senior Iraqi official spoke anonymously to discuss the private negotiations.

Iraqi government spokesman Hisham al-Rikabi painted almost the same picture. He added, “The Hezbollah Brigades' decision came as a result of the action taken by the Prime Minister internally and externally to prevent escalation, and to ensure the smooth completion of negotiations regarding the completion of the international coalition's withdrawal process from Iraq.”

Al-Rikabi added: “We hope that all parties will listen to the government's call to reduce tension and ensure that there are no hot spots of tension in the region and in Iraq in particular.”

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Senior officials in Mr. Sudan's government who are close to Iran participated in the negotiations, according to Iraqi and Iranian officials close to the leaders of their governments. Among the participants in the negotiations were former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and the leaders of two armed groups that did not target US forces: Qais al-Khazali and Hadi al-Amiri. Participating in the talks on the Iranian side was General Ismail Qaani, commander of the Quds Force, a division of the Revolutionary Guard that works with Axis groups outside Iran.

He contributed to the preparation of the reports Falih Hassan from Baghdad, Farnaz Fasihi From New York and Eric Schmidt And Michael D. Share From Washington.