Iran-backed attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria drop after retaliatory strikes

Iranian-backed militias increased their attacks on US troop bases shortly after the start of the Israel-Gaza war

US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq in 2014. Department of Defence / AFP
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Tehran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria have not attacked US forces in the two countries since February 4, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, marking a dramatic change from the near-daily attacks of recent months.

The drop comes after the US conducted two high-profile strikes against Iranian proxies in retaliation for a drone attack that killed three US troops at a base in Jordan on January 28.

The US first retaliated on February 2, hitting Iran-backed sites in Iraq and Syria. Then, on February 7, US forces killed a Kataib Hezbollah commander in Iraq.

The Pentagon has not ruled out more strikes, even though Kataib Hezbollah said it would stand down.

The US has blamed a wider grouping of Iranian groups, including Kataib Hezbollah, for the Jordan attack.

Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said she did not want to theorise as to whether recent US military actions are having a deterrent effect.

“I can't speculate to the behaviours of why, all I can tell you is that we welcome that … we have not seen attacks since February 4,” Ms Singh told reporters.

Iranian-backed militias increased attacks on US troops in Iraq and Syria shortly after the start of the Israel-Gaza war, with the Pentagon reporting more than 165 attacks since mid-October.

Dozens of troops suffered concussive injuries over that time, but the Jordan attack on January 28 was the first time US personnel had been killed.

While Iran-backed Houthis have reduced their activities in Iraq and Syria, the same cannot be said for the Houthis in Yemen.

The Tehran-supported militants are continuing to attack shipping in the Red Sea despite three US and UK bombing runs in Yemen and a string of US “self-defence” strikes against Houthi missile sites.

Ms Singh also said that Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin was expected to be released from hospital later on Tuesday after being treated under general anaesthetic for bladder problems as he battles prostate cancer.

She said Mr Austin, 70, was in “good condition”.

He was admitted to a critical care ward on Sunday and transferred duties to his deputy Kathleen Hicks, who remains in charge for the time being.

Mr Austin's latest health scare came weeks after it emerged he had kept recent hospital stays secret and had not promptly told President Joe Biden of his cancer diagnosis, sparking widespread criticism.

Updated: February 13, 2024, 10:11 PM