Amid mounting tensions between Tehran and Washington, US on Monday attacked a pro-Iran group in Iraq killing at least 25 fighters. Sunday night’s attacks saw US planes hit several bases belonging to the Hezbollah brigades, one of the most radical factions of Hashed al-Shaabi, a Tehran-backed Iraqi paramilitary coalition. The strikes “killed 25 and wounded 51, including commanders and fighters, and the toll could yet rise,” said the Hashed, which holds major sway in Iraq.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said the US had “shown its firm support for terrorism and its neglect for the independence and sovereignty of countries” by carrying out the attacks.
Washington, itself a key ally of Baghdad, must accept the consequences of its “illegal act”, he added.
US Defence Secretary Mark Esper described the attacks—which hit three locations in Iraq and two in neighbouring Syria—as “successful”, and did not rule out further military action against Iran-backed militias.
Russia’s foreign ministry called the “exchange of strikes” between Hezbollah and US forces in Iraq “unacceptable”, and called for restraint from both sides.
“We consider such actions unacceptable and counterproductive. We call upon all parties to refrain from further actions that could sharply destabilise the military-political situation in Iraq, Syria, and the neighbouring countries,” a ministry statement said.
While the Russian statement referred to Hezbollah, the US strikes on Sunday actually targeted the Hezbollah brigades, a radical faction of Hashed al-Shaabi, a Tehran-backed Iraqi paramilitary coalition.
US sources say pro-Iran armed factions now pose a greater threat than the Islamic State group, whose rise saw the US freshly deploy troops on Iraqi soil.
Iran’s economy has been battered since the country has been locked in a standoff with the United States and its Gulf Arab allies after US President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 deal that gave it relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The United States has imposed sanctions on Iran’s sovereign wealth fund, whose board of trustees includes President Hassan Rouhani, as well as Etemad Tejarate Pars, a company that the Treasury Department said had sent money internationally on behalf of Iran’s defence ministry.