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  • Writer's pictureMECRA

US-Iran and Iran-Israel tensions daily updates March 12 and beyond

Updated: Mar 23, 2020

Previous installments:

See 2017 to 2019 part of timeline

March 12

Three Coalition personnel were killed during a rocket attack on Camp Taji, Iraq, March 11.

Approximately 12 additional personnel were wounded during the attack. The attack is under investigation by the Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces. Camp Taji is an Iraqi base that hosts Coalition personnel for training and advising missions. Approximately 18 107mm Katyusha rockets struck the base.  The Iraqi Security Forces found a rocket-rigged truck, a few miles from Camp Taji.

Kataib Hezbollah allegedly praises Taji attack.

Fallout from the Camp Taji attack. Husham al-Hashimi condemns the Iranian backed militias. US officials concerned toll may rise. Pompeo: "Today’s deadly attack on Iraq’s Camp Taji military base will not be tolerated. UK's Raab and I agree – those responsible must be held accountable." Strikes target areas near Albukamal but US says it was not its forces involved. Kataib Hezbollah allegedly hit. Video shows Imam Ali base hit by airstrikes. Questions about how US might retaliate. Iraq president calls for restraint. 107mm rockets were used, similar to past attacks.

Drones target US forces near Deir Ezzor in last weeks.

US Congress has moved to restrict Trump's war powers via resolution.

UN condemns Taji attack.

Speaker Halbousi condemns attack. Barham Salih condemned it as well.

“Let me be clear: The U.S. will not tolerate attacks against our people, our interests or our allies...All options are on the table as we work with our partners to bring the perpetrators to justice and maintain deterrence.”- Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said the attack, was carried out by "Shia militia groups...we have pretty good confidence we know who did this." Fourteen were wounded and three killed, he noted.

Gen. Frank McKenzie said to the US Senate that Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah is "the only Shia militia group known to have conducted an indirect fire attack on this scale against U.S. coalition forces in Iraq...On that base with these type of rockets, no they were not intercepted. It's not a function of failure. There's not a system there to defend against those types of rockets."

“The Iranian proxy group known as Kataib Hezbollah is the only group known to have conducted an indirect fire attack on this scale against the U.S. coalition forces in Iraq.” - en. General Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie.

Politico notes that one former Trump administration official said it is likely Wednesday’s attack was conducted with the “knowledge and support of the IRGC...Although some stated they believed the killing of [Iranian Gen. Qassem] Solemani would prevent further attacks, many more believed it would not and that this is the start of their response."

President Donald Trump says “you will see” when he was asked whether #Washington will respond.

Questions continue about who carried out attacks in Syria's Albukamal last night.

CENTCOM also released a series of tweets about Iran's previous attacks, including the mining in the Gulf of Oman, the weapons transfers in November and the ballistic missile attacks, building a case for retaliation.

"The Briton killed in Iraq rocket attack has been named as Lance Corporal Brodie Gillon." -Lucy Fisher.

March 13

US airstrikes target Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq: "Earlier this evening, the United States conducted defensive precision strikes against Kata’ib Hizbollah (KH) facilities across Iraq. These strikes targeted five weapon storage facilities to significantly degrade their ability to conduct future attacks against Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) coalition forces. These weapons storage facilities include facilities that housed weapons used to target U.S. and coalition troops. These strikes were defensive, proportional, and in direct response to the threat posed by Iranian-backed Shia militia groups (SMG) who continue to attack bases hosting OIR coalition forces."

The US says there have been a "series of rocket attacks conducted by Iranian-backed SMGs against U.S. and coalition personnel – killing five and wounding dozens more, including Iraqi Security Forces." Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper : "The United States will not tolerate attacks against our people, our interests, or our allies...As we have demonstrated in recent months, we will take any action necessary to protect our forces in Iraq and the region.”

General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., Commander, U.S. Central Command will hold an 8:30am March 13 briefing in the Pentagon Briefing Room.

Airstrikes have been reported in the following places, a video from Jarf Al-Sakhar, and there were reports at 1:15am in Jurf al-Nasr, al-Musayyib, Najaf, Alexandria (الاسكندرية) on areas where the Hashd al-Shaabi (PMU) have bases. Some concern that other forces, such as the ERD and members of the Iraqi 19th division were located danger close.

Places mentioned in FarsNews includes the Jarf al-Sakhar (جرف الصخر) and Seidat (السعیدات) and also an airport area near Karbala and in Babil. Also PMU offices in Salah a-Din and Basra. In addition an area called Khan al-Nus (خان النص) reported aircraft flying over. Iranian sources sad that airport staff, medical personnel and Iraqi police were harmed in the strikes. Al-Mayadeen had a similar account of strikes Jarf al-Sakhar (جرف الصخر) and Salah a-Din (صلاح الدين) and Hari near Albukamal (الهري في البوكمال). This account mentions a place called Tababa (طبابة) which it says is in the "Saidat suburb of Jurf al-Sakhr district, Babil Governorate, central Iraq."

The area of Hari is known from previous reports when Iraq had carried out attacks on ISIS in the same place. Jurf al Nasr is also known as Jarf al-Sakhar according to reports, so that location is the same place. Local accounts reported the same places under attack, particularly Khan al-Nas (خان النص) near Karbala. It appears Khan al-Nas (Nus) is halfway between al-Najaf and Karbala', which is near the airport. Images of the wreckage near the uncompleted airport (مطار كربلاء).

Some blamed the US and Israel while other posted images of attacks on US tanks. One noted that the attacks hit the 46 and 47 brigades of the PMU which are PMU units. Another reported a senior IRGC commander killed. Kutaib Sayyed al Shuhada says several of its members killed.

Of interest, on March 11 a report emerged that "sources told (Basnews): 'Recently, there was an agreement between the security leaders and the militia of the Hezbollah Brigades, which enters the entry of forces from the Federal Police to the area of ​​Jurf al-Sakhr, and some areas maintain the presence of the battalions, so that the security file for the district is shared between the two parties.' The sources added, “Some military units of the Federal Police entered today to Jurf al-Sakhr, for the first time after liberating them from ISIS." Two days later it was struck by airstrikes.

Michael Knights: "Looking forward 2 the 0830 ET press conference with Gen MacKenzie but expectations very low. Tonight's op in Jurf as-Sakr probably fell mainly on empty locations. If you underwhelm at moments like this, you pay all the costs for none of the benefits, & don't deter future attacks."

Reports that IRGC commander General Siamand Mashhadani (الجنرال سيامند مشهداني) was killed in the airstrikes. Al-Ain reports the same thing.

CENTCOM briefing includes details that US sending Patriots to Iraq. "I would caution Iran and its proxies from attempting a response that would endanger U.S. and coalition forces or our partners." – Gen Frank McKenzie, CDR CENTCOM. US shows maps and footage of areas struck, calling them "Shia Military Groups (SMG)....The slide shows the five KH locations that are known to have stored Iranian-supplied advanced conventional weapons that we struck at 6 p.m. on March 13, East Coast time, and on March 14 in Iraq." – Gen Frank McKenzie, CDR CENTCOM. Actually the date is March 12 and March 13. "We have information that confirms KH conducted the rocket attacks on Camp Taji on March 11th that killed three coalition members and injured fourteen others. We assess that KH has launched 12 rocket attacks against coalition forces in the last six months."-CENTCOM.

Names of the three soldiers of Iraq's 19th division who were killed.

Video and questions over what was at Karbala airport (video). Tom Cat writes "A3 is not a "weapons storage" - it was a temporary building with office space meant for Contractors involved in construction of the Karbala Airport. Hence why 1 civilian was killed there."

WSJ: UK almost joined mission: "were intended to be a joint operation w/ the British...But at the last minute...the British gov. pulled out of the mission over a legal question pertaining to how the attack was blamed on KH."

Images from site A2.

Ignatius at Washington Post ""Iranian authorities have taken extreme measures to try to protect #Khamenei."...rivalries emerged between army and IRGC after Soleimani.

Ballistic missiles may have been targeted.

Iraqi Ministry of Interior condemns the US attack. President Barham Salih condemned the US strikes. Iraq Joint Operations says it was not consulted about US attacks.

"The US military told the Iraqi government in advance that it planned to strike in retaliation for the attack on US troops and warned the Iraqi government it must do more now to control the Shia militias and halt attacks on US forces."

Nasrallah speech includes conspiracies about US and coronavirus.

US says Iranian proxies "not as good" after Soleimani.

Masked men vow revenge against US on Iraq TV. "I would caution Iran and its proxies from attempting a response that would endanger U.S. and coalition forces or our partners." – Gen Frank McKenzie, CDR CENTCOM

March 14

Iran Foreign Ministry summons Swiss ambassador to Iran who serves as protector of interests of the US over "baseless remarks" of US Presdent holding Iran responsible for the recent attack on Al-Taji airbase in #Iraq. Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi on Friday rejected the “baseless” accusations leveled by the US president against Iran regarding the recent attack on a US-occupied base in Iraq. “Instead of making dangerous moves and baseless accusations, Mr Trump had better thoroughly reassess the presence and behavior of his forces in the region,” Mousavi said.

Iran: “Instead of hypocritical displays of compassion and repulsive bragging, you should end your economic and medical terrorism so that medicine and medical supplies can reach medical staff and the Iranian people,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi tweeted on Friday.

Iran's Fars News claims that Taji struck again. Iran's Fars News discusses "appeasement" of Europe.

New attack on Taji: "The target was the American wing at the Taji military base, north of the Iraqi capital, although there was no immediate word on casualties, the Associated Press quoted security officials as saying. The official said over a dozen rockets landed inside the base, some hitting the coalition quarters while others fell on a runway used by Iraqi forces.

An Iraqi colonel inside the base told Reuters news agency he heard at least 10 rockets hit the base and said he could now hear sirens blaring." - The National. What is known via AP "barrage of rockets hit a base housing U.S. and other coalition troops north of Baghdad," Iraqi security officials said Saturday, "There was no immediate word on casualties at Camp Taji," according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. More than 12 rockets struck. Al-Mayadeen says 7 rocket launchers found, 24 rockets ht base as flights were taking off. Press TV had the report around noon Iraq time, others aroudn 11:30 Iraq time. See links to reports. One report says 18 rockets hit area.

Unique rocket launchers (منصات الصواريخ ) were found that pops out of the ground. 12 to 14 rockets ( صواريخ) were fired.

US Coalition spokesman: "confirms at least (25) 107mm rockets impacted Iraq's Camp Taji base hosting Coalition troops, March 14 at 10:51 a.m. (Iraq Time). 3-Coalition WIA, 2-Iraqi WIA. Assessment and investigation ongoing."

This was the first daylight attack of its kind using concealed rocket launchers.

Iraq's Security Media Cell Joint Operations Command appears to support US withdrawal "JOC-I also calls on all our people to not hesitate to report and provide information to the intelligence agencies on these elements that are acting outside the law. The Iraqi people and their security forces, with all their formations, weakens the Iraqi state's ability to provide its own security, and expects more losses for Iraqis. This necessitates the speedy implementation of the Parliament's decision on the issue of the Coalition's withdrawal."

Nujaba movement slams US "occupation" and "weakness."

Kataib Hezbollah statement "After the recent American aggression, the state of panic and the severe confusion that afflicted his forces became evident, and the weakness of his intelligence apparatus was revealed, and the assessment of the American military decision-maker was apparent."

March 15

Tasnim writes about the shocking confrontation with US and Katab Hezbolah.

March 16

A new group threatening US in Iraq appears. Called "Usbat Al-Thairen” or “The Revolutionary League." This may be to get around claims Kataib Hezbollah is firing rockets as US is reticent to blame PMU and blames Shia groups.

Iran links UK to "Spanish flu genocide" to compare to coronavirus.

Badr threatens US to remove troops. “The country’s sovereignty must be respected by all parties operating on the Iraqi soil, especially Americans or the international coalition (purportedly fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group). It is not acceptable to allow violations that lead to the shedding of Iraqi blood,” said Hassan al-Kaabi, the head of the Badr Organization’s parliamentary bloc, in an exclusive interview with Arabic-language Baghdad Today news agency on Sunday.

March 17

Rocket attack targets a base with US forces. "A pair of rockets hit the Besmaya base overnight, where a Spanish contingent of CJTFOIR and NATO troops are present. Iraqi military statement makes no mention of casualties. Rockets hit Besmaya, first time in nearly 6 months of attacks."

CJTF:OIR: "Today marks a historic moment for the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve and our Iraqi Security Partners," said Brig. Gen. Vincent Barker, CJTF-OIR Director of Sustainment. "Al Qaim base served as a critical location in the fight against Daesh. First, as the Iraqi Security Forces liberated the Al Qaim region from an evil presence, and later as a valuable base during the Battle for Baghouz, the last physical territory held by ISIS. Today’s transfer is possible thanks to the efforts and successes of our ISF partners."

Iraq taps new Prime Minister, former Najaf governor Adnan al-Zarfi (Zurufi)

Israel's IDF releases details on a March 2 attempted attack. "March 2nd, 2020. The planned attack was aimed at IDF troops and conducted from a Syrian Arab Armed Forces (SAAF) military compound located in the demilitarized buffer zone in the northern Golan Heights, adjacent to the village of Hader. The AAR was led by the Commanding Officer of the Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Amir Baram, together with the Commanding Officer of the 210th Division, Brig. Gen. Amit Fisher and other commanders. The AAR indicated that Hezbollah operatives cooperated with SAAF troops in the attempt to execute the said attack from the Golan Heights area." - IDF

Pompeo says, “The Wuhan virus is a killer and the Iranian regime is an accomplice.”

Report of rockets in Baghdad, but CJTF says it was not near US base.

March 18

Iraqis have complained to UN about US airstrikes in Iraq. Rudaw: "Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent two letters of complaint to the Secretary General of the United Nations and the Security Council on Monday  regarding the recent missile attacks by US warplanes on Iraqi forces. The content of the letter was published by state-owned newspaper al-Sabaah on Tuesday. 'US attacks are a hostile act by US troops against Iraq’s state, government and people,' the letter read. 'Such an act by US is only  aiming to turn Iraq into a battlefield for regional conflict.'"

Details of the rocket attack on March 17 that didn't target US troops.

Badr warns that US 101st Airborne has been deployed to Ayn al-Assad base.

Guardian: U.K. is privately pressing U.S. to ease sanctions on #Iran to help it fight #coronavirus outbreak. Comes as a U.K. soldier was just killed by #Iran-backed militias in #Iraq after E3 offered €5 million to help Iran.

March 19

Video of threats against US forces continue to circulate on social media.

Iran blames US and Israel for coronavirus. Claims "biological attack."

ISIS releases images of the airstrikes on Albukamal from March 11-12. "ur compounds were massively attacked (12 March 2020) at the Iranian military base in #Albukamal, #Syria, by #US forces according to media reports. Here is #ISI assessment.

Amer Fakhoury airlifted by V-22 Ospey from Lebanon. US Senator Shaheen had said he "is a U.S. citizen being unjustly held in Lebanon. He is very ill & needs treatment in the U.S. Lebanon knows his detention is illegal. If he is not released ASAP, there'll be consequences. All options are on the table to bring him home to NH." He was released by a military court on March 15 but a court sought to prevent him leaving. Footage of the rescue and comments.

Pentagon trying to figure out how to respond to rocket attacks in Iraq.

Differences emerge in the PMU emerge. Sadr appears to urge more integration with Iraqi forces.

"US-led coalition has pulled some of its 2,500 trainers out of #Iraq as a precautionary measure due to #COVID19, senior official said today. UK Defence Ministry had earlier announced some of its trainers returned home from Iraq for same reason."

Iran releases Navy veteran Michael White to Furlough.

Kataib Hezbollah celebrates US leaving Qaim. "Kta'ib Hezbollah's Security/Military Spokesperson, Abu Ali al-Askari, makes a statement (19/03/2020): "The humiliating escape of the criminal American occupation from the Qaim base & others is the start of the defeat; which requires from engaged free people to prepare."

"UK Defense Minister decides to withdraw half of UK troops from Iraq & suspends training missions for 60 days because of Corona Virus."

"Iraqi Defense Minister meets with leaders of 4 PMF (Hashd) breakaway brigades which are cutting ties with PMF Council & aligning themselves with MoD. They will break all ties with PMF."

Former Iran Pres Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have coronavirus.

With oil at 17-year low Iraq faces crises.

Ayub Kara celebrates "economic peace" after airlift of 100,000 coronavirus kits from unnamed country, thought to be in Gulf.

Report: Iran to continue to press US in Iraq.

March 20

David Schenker, Assistant Secretary Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs briefing: "As for Iranian proxy violence in Iraq, whether that is a product of needing to or having a residual demand for revenge over Soleimani, that I don’t know."...Assistant Secretary Schenker: "What I do believe in regards to the proxy violence is that groups like KH, like Kataib Hezbollah, Asaib Haq, Iranian proxies continue to target American’s diplomatic facilities, members of the coalition, American military."

Moving on from our efforts to address the pandemic, I wanted to recap recent developments in Iraq. I hinted at some of these yesterday. Even as two Americans were killed fighting ISIS along our Iraqi partners last week, Iranian-aligned groups escalated attacks on coalition facilities, killing three coalition personnel, including two Americans, in a cowardly attack. As a result, we have been forced to take defensive actions to protect Americans and – American and coalition lives. The Iraqi Government is at a decision point. If it doesn’t take steps to hold accountable those responsible for the attacks on coalition forces, which are there at the invitation of the Iraqi Government, the U.S. will be forced to continue to protect our forces proactively.- Schenker.

Turkey may intervene with Russia in Eastern Syria for oil as US may withdraw, according to Turkish accounts.

"U.S.-led coalition in Iraq has paused training activities and begun pulling some international troops from the country because of concerns about the rapidly spreading coronavirus."

"USS Harry Truman conduct dual carrier and joint air wing operations in the #ArabianSea. The Carrier Strike Groups are deployed to 5th Fleet to ensure maritime stability and security."

March 21

Meeting of Shi'ite organizations. "The meeting was held at the house of Ammar al-Hakim, the head of Iraqi Wisdom, the Fatah coalition, the Rule of Law and the Atta and Fazilat factions, and the Al-Nasr coalition attended. The source said: Attendees at the meeting, which the Fatah coalition had arranged, reviewed the case of forming an interim government. He added: "The meeting received a message from Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Sadr Movement, in which he noted the importance of not talking about former candidate for Prime Minister."

Turkey claims it killed two PKK in eastern Syria.

Hezbollah Nasrallah speech: "Hezbollah Secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah said that his organisation had no prior knowledge of the military court's decision earlier this week to release Amer Fahkhoury, the commander of the notorious Khiam Prison from the 1980s until the 1990s, when he was a member of the South Lebanon Army (SLA), an Israeli proxy." Claims he learned about it on TV and made inquiries. Denies the deal several times.

US State Department says Pentagon agency sending #coronavirus test kits to #Iraq to test Iraqis.

Syria: "We took decisions to close all crossings with the regime," said Ghassan al-Yousef, head of a council that administers areas of Deir al-Zor province east of the Euphrates River."

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