During his first week on the job, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan resumed implementing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s infamous “pivot to Asia,” laying off Middle East analysts in favor of an Indo-Pacific focus. But the region held tight to headlines in the five months that followed, between an 11-day Israel-Hamas conflict, Iranian uranium enrichment amid deteriorating nuclear negotiations, and an ongoing war in Yemen.
President Joe Biden’s latest thorn: Tit-for-tat aerial warfare with Shiite militias in Iraq, where the U.S. military is currently stationed at the request of the sitting government. Last week saw the greatest escalation in rocket and drone fire on U.S. and coalition targets this year, with at least five separate attacks over the course of three days.
On Wednesday, 14 rockets hit western Iraq’s Ain al-Asad Air Base, which hosts the largest concentration of U.S. troops in the country, injuring three. Almost simultaneously, American-backed Kurdish forces in Syria intercepted a drone near al Omar oil field. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and a U.S. base on the premises of the Erbil airport were also targeted.
In each, the country’s Iranian-backed militias were quickly identified as the likely culprits. Tuesday, Reuters confirmed rumors that senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) commander Hossein Taeb traveled to Baghdad last week to encourage Shiite groups to ramp up violence against American and allied forces. A senior official in the region reported that Taeb conveyed “the supreme leader’s message to them about keeping up pressure on U.S. forces in Iraq until they leave the region.”