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U.S. and Iran inch toward a clash in Iraq

24 4 3

Washington – At the beginning of the year, the United States and Iran came close to war following a series of attacks in Iraq. Now, as all three countries grapple with the coronavirus epidemic, another round of confrontation is looming.

Once again, rocket attacks by Iranian-backed militia groups on American targets in Iraq are driving the escalation. On March 11, an attack on Camp Taji attributed to the Kataib Hezbollah group killed two U.S. and one British servicemen. The next day, the U.S. retaliated with at least five attacks on the group’s weapons depots.

It was strikingly reminiscent of the exchange of attacks that culminated in the Jan. 3 killing, by a U.S. drone strike, of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Kataib Hezbollah leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Iran’s retaliation did not take any American lives but left scores of soldiers with head trauma. An uneasy lull followed.

Now the two sides are again threatening each other with dire consequences. On April 1, U.S. President Donald Trump said Iran was planning a “sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq” and warned the next American “response will be bigger.” Iran responded that the U.S. would face “the fiercest response” to any counterstrike.

Why is this happening now? Because both sides see an........

© The Japan Times