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Tensions Escalate in Iraq Amid US Strikes and Rising Concerns of Conflict Following Gaza War

Published December 27, 2023
7 months ago

The geopolitical landscape in Iraq is witnessing a concerning escalade as the country becomes a battleground for the rising tensions between Iran-supported factions and the United States, exacerbated by the ongoing brutal confrontations in Gaza. This intricate situation comes to the forefront after a series of events that could potentially provoke a wider regional conflict.


In an authoritative statement, the US military confirmed initiating attacks against three locations in Iraq employed by the Iran-aligned militia Kataib Hezbollah and other associated groups. These strikes were a response to an earlier offensive by Kataib Hezbollah on a US base in Erbil, northern Iraq, which resulted in the injury of US soldiers, including one in critical condition. The US justifies its military presence in Iraq and Syria as a bid to thwart a resurgence of the ISIL (ISIS) militants.


This exchange marks a significant point in the long line of over 100 assaults on US bases in the region attributed to Iran-linked forces since the Gaza war erupted on October 7. Previously, no American personnel had sustained serious injuries from these confrontations. Central Command reassured that Tuesday's operation effectively dismantled the intended targets and likely eradicated a number of Kataib Hezbollah combatants whilst avoiding civilian harm.


Compounding the situation, a senior Iranian military figure, IRGC Brigadier-General Razi Mousavi, was assassinated in Syria – a move arguably carried out by Israel. His home in the district home to Syria's most prominent Shia shrine was hit by three missiles, sending shockwaves across the region. Mousavi was considered an influential figure within Iran's strategic establishment and his death provoked Iranian pledges of retaliation.


With various Iran-supported groups like Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi movement launching strikes against Israel in attempts to cease its activities in Gaza, concerns over an imminent full-scale war have surfaced. Despite this, Tehran-based analyst Ali Akbar Dareini suggests that neither Iran nor the US wish to engage in such large-scale warfare, given the potential costs and unpredictability of such a conflict. However, the factor of miscalculation remains a risk.


Adding to the complexity, Israeli political maneuvering could see attempts to instigate an Iran-US conflict to bolster Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position as his leadership comes under scrutiny. Meanwhile, the leverage of the Iraqi government appears limited in managing the situation on its own soil, complicating the regional power dynamics further.


With the anniversary of Qassem Soleimani’s assassination approaching alongside one of the deadliest conflicts involving Israel in recent times, all eyes are on Iran’s next move. Analyst Dareini posits that a response to the killing of Mousavi is guaranteed, yet the timing and nature of this retaliation remain open to speculation.


These unfolding events depict an already turbulent region being pushed towards a precipice of escalation, as key players maneuver through a delicate and potentially explosive geopolitical arena.



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