Bahrain has expressed its support for the air strikes carried out by the US yesterday against the Kataib Hezbollah (KH) facilities in Iraq and neighbouring Syria. The announcement was made in a tweet by the Bahrain Foreign Ministry.
— وزارة الخارجية 🇧🇭 (@bahdiplomatic) December 29, 2019
The ministry’s official webpage described the US strikes as a response to “repeated terrorist attacks” by the KH, which is aligned with Iran and forms part of the Hashd Al-Shaabi umbrella group of paramilitaries that fought against Daesh. “The Kingdom of Bahrain lauds the strategic role of the United States of America in combatting terrorist groups in the region. It further reiterates its support for all efforts and measure taken by the US to preserve regional and international peace and security.”
America conducted the “defensive” aerial attacks against the group in response to the killing of a US civilian contractor in a rocket attack on a military base in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, which also left four US service personnel and two Iraqi soldiers wounded. Targets included the headquarters of the Hashd Al-Shaabi’s 45th and 46th Brigades near the western Qaim district on the border with Syria; at least 25 fighters are believed to have been killed, including a commander.
— Jason Brodsky (@JasonMBrodsky) December 30, 2019
Reuters quoted senior commander Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, known by his alias Abu Mahdi Al-Mohandes, as saying that, “The blood of the martyrs will not be in vain and our response will be very tough on the American forces in Iraq.”
Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi also voiced condemnation over the US attack as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and a “dangerous escalation that threatens the security of Iraq and the region.” The KH forms an integrated part of the Iraqi security forces, under the direct command of the Prime Minister.
The group was formed in 2003 during the US invasion and occupation of Iraq and have a history of resisting the occupation forces. It is currently the only Iraqi Shia militia that is designated as a terrorist organisation by the US government. Israel recently claimed that it would not allow Iran to entrench itself in Iraq through the Hashd Al-Shaabi, which was established in response to a fatwa by Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to combat Daesh.
Those calling the #US aggression on "kataeb Hezbollah" as " an attack against Iranian proxies" are deliberately omitting they are part of the 45 and 46 brigades of the Iraqi security forces integrated under the direct command of the #Iraq Prime Minister @AdilAbdAlMahdi.
— Elijah J. Magnier 🇪🇺 (@ejmalrai) December 30, 2019
Iran condemned the air strikes as “terrorism”. The official website of the KH also denounced America’s “heinous crime” of violating Iraq’s sovereignty and issued calls for the expulsion of the US from the country.
A solemn reminder that more than 5,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq as the administration pointlessly antagonizes forces in the region who can do them harm. https://t.co/nVNcT6lvSJ
— Stephen Wertheim (@stephenwertheim) December 29, 2019
There are believed to be approximately 5,000 US troops still in Iraq, despite a withdrawal in December 2011 under the previous administration.