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Monday, February 6th, 2023

U.S. Reps. Reschenthaler, Waltz call on Biden administration to counter Iranian attacks in Iraq

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Although the United States has largely withdrawn from Iraq in recent years, U.S. Reps. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) and Mike Waltz (R-FL) last week urged the Biden administration to respond to recent Iranian attacks in the country and deter future aggression.

“As Iran continues to sow chaos and destruction in the Middle East, these continued attacks have assaulted Iraq’s sovereignty, threatened U.S forces and ongoing counterterrorism efforts, and killed innocent American and Iraqi civilians,” Reschenthaler and Waltz wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretaries of Defense and State Lloyd Austin and Antony Blinken, respectively. They concluded, “It is deeply concerning that these attacks have not been met with a strong U.S. response, and we believe this will only increase the IRGC’s ongoing terror campaign across the region. To that end, we urge the Administration to respond against these Iranian threats to deter future attacks and protect our regional interests.”

Tensions between the United States and Iran have been particularly high since the Trump administration when it authorized a drone strike on Iran’s Major General Qasem Soleimani, former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force Commander, and ultimately assassinated him on a trip to Baghdad, Iraq in 2020. Iran subsequently barraged U.S. military bases in Iraq with missiles, which led to injuries among 110 troops, but no deaths.

Fast forward to this year, and as of March 2022, the IRGC has launched several drone and missile strikes into northern Iraq, which have killed and injured dozens of Iraqis and killed one American citizen in the region, although that citizen’s identity or their role in the Kurdistan region was not released.

Iran currently faces international backlash and internal turmoil over the death of a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman who died in custody of its morality police for inappropriate attire earlier this year. Mass demonstrations have spread across the country, in what experts have called one of the most serious challenges to its leadership in years.

The letter from the pair of lawmakers also predated airstrikes in the region last weekend by another Middle Eastern nation, Turkey, which targeted Kurdish groups it blamed for a recent bombing in Istanbul. In that case, the NATO ally asserted the right to self-defense under article 51 of the United Nations charter and said it would assail areas used as a base by terrorists – northern Iraq and Syria, in this case – although Kurdish officials have alleged those air attacks led to civilian deaths.

Reschenthaler and Waltz previously served in the Middle East during deployments with the U.S. Armed Forces.