On Friday, The New York Times cited unnamed sources as saying that over the past few months, an “Iran-backed militia” has used combat drones to attack US-used bases in Iraq.
At least two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were downed by the air defense system at Ain al-Asad Air Base in Iraq on Saturday night as the drones tried to attack the base, where American forces are stationed, according to the Iraqi media.
The Iraqi military, in turn, said the drones had been destroyed after the US air defense system C-RAM was activated at the Ain al-Asad base, located in Iraq’s western desert.
The alleged attack comes after The New York Times reported, citing US sources, that an “Iran-backed militia” had used combat drones in recent months to attack US-used bases in Iraq.
“The drones are a big deal, one of the most significant threats our troops there face”, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer Michael P. Mulroy said as quoted by the newspaper on Friday.
According to American officials, small, explosive drones have been deployed at least three times in the past two months to crash into targets on Iraqi bases late at night. The attacked bases included those housing CIA and US Special Operations units.
The officials told the NYT that the UAVs used in the attacks had been partially recovered, and that analysis showed they were “produced in Iran or with technology provided by Iran”.
According to the newspaper, Iran is putting pressure on the US in the region in the hope that Washington will scrap economic sanctions against Tehran. The latter were reinstated by then-US President Donald Trump in May 2018 after he announced Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
As far as the Ain al-Asad Air Base is concerned, the facility, which was attacked by drones last month, remains the only base in Iraq still hosting troops from the international anti-terrorist coalition.
In January 2020, the base was targeted by Iran with ballistic missiles in retaliation for the US-ordered drone strike that led to the assassination of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani earlier that month.
Soleimani’s killing was followed by the Iraqi Parliament overwhelmingly voting on 5 January 2020 for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq, and also speaking in favour of reviewing the format of cooperation with the US-led international coalition.