At least ten rockets were launched at a coalition air base in western Iraq that hosts U.S. troops on Tuesday, less than a week after the Biden administration ordered airstrikes against Iran-backed militias in Syria.
The attack targeted the Ain al-Asad air base in Iraq’s Anbar province, according to coalition spokesman Colonel Wayne Marotto. An American civilian contractor died of a heart attack “while sheltering” from the assault, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
10 Indirect Fire rockets and Iraqi Security Forces are investigating.
— OIR Spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto (@OIRSpox) March 3, 2021
“Iraqi [security forces] are leading the response & investigation. Further information will be released as it becomes available,” Marotto wrote on Twitter.
In January 2020, Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on the Ain al-Asad base in retaliation for the Trump administration’s killing of top general Qasem Soleimani. Dozens of U.S. troops suffered concussions and other injuries in that attack.
The assault on Tuesday came after President Biden ordered strikes on an unofficial crossing at the Syria-Iraq border, reportedly used by Iran-backed militias for smuggling. Those strikes were a response to an earlier attack on the airport in Erbil, Iraq, that left a Filipino contractor dead and wounded an American serviceman and multiple American contractors.
Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, blamed Iran for the Tuesday attack.
“The latest rocket attacks on U.S. & coalition troops is the work of Iran,” Rubio wrote on Twitter. “Iran makes the rockets, gives them to Shia militia groups and tells them where & when to attack. The purpose of these attacks is to pressure Biden to speed up the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.”
Editor’s note 10:45 a.m.: This article was updated to include confirmation of the death of an American civilian contractor during the Tuesday attack.