At least ten rockets fell early Wednesday on a base housing US troops in western Iraq.
They killed a civilian subcontractor.
This attack comes two days before a historic visit by Pope Francis to the country.
Preceded by other operations with the same modus operandi in the past two weeks, the shooting of this Wednesday reminds us to what extent the first visit of a sovereign pontiff to Iraq is a logistical headache.
"I will go to Iraq for a pilgrimage", despite everything declared the Pope after his traditional Wednesday audience, stressing that he wishes "to meet a people who have suffered so much, to meet this martyred Church".
In addition to the health restrictions taken to try to stem a second wave of Covid-19 in the country, the tensions between the two powers acting in Iraq, Iran and the United States, are an additional obstacle to the smooth running of the program. papal.
Pope Francis is expected Friday in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, and Sunday in Erbil where he is to celebrate mass in a stadium that will be filled with the faithful.
He has no planned stopover in the desert west of the country, but will pass through Mosul, a former jihadist stronghold in the north where many factions are now deployed, including Hachd al-Chaabi.
Due to the precarious security stability and the Covid-19 pandemic, the Argentine sovereign pontiff will be deprived of the crowds he loves.
In addition, to ward off the worst, national confinement will be decreed throughout the papal visit, from Friday to Monday.
Tensions with pro-Iran factions
Of the ten rockets fired on Wednesday at the Iraqi Ain al-Assad air base, several fell inside the section where American soldiers and drones of the international anti-jihadist coalition are stationed.
A civilian contractor died of a heart attack as a result of this attack.
"The Iraqi security forces are leading the investigation," reacted Colonel Wayne Marotto, American spokesman for the coalition, while Washington, the American capital, regularly points the finger at the pro-Iran armed factions for these attacks, which have multiplied in recent weeks.
An Iraqi security source said the projectiles were fired from a village near Ain al-Assad, a desert region where armed men can easily set up launch pads, in pick-ups or vehicles, fire. projectiles and quickly set off again.
The Iraqi military command reported that the rockets were of the Grad type, more precisely of the Arash type, Western security sources told AFP. They were of Iranian manufacture and larger than the rockets used recently.
Sworn enemies, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States both have a presence or allies in Iraq.
The United States, at the head of the coalition fighting the Islamic State (IS) group, deploys 2,500 soldiers there and Iran has, among other things, the support of Hachd al-Chaabi, a powerful coalition of paramilitaries integrated into the Iraqi state. mainly from armed factions funded and armed by Tehran, the Iranian capital.
American raid last week
If Iraq experienced relative calm in the fall with the announcement of a pro-Iran truce in the face of threats from the United States to withdraw all its soldiers and diplomats from the country altogether, a new escalation has recently. started.
In February, rockets fell near the US embassy in Baghdad, followed by others targeting Balad air base further north, injuring an Iraqi employee of a US company responsible for maintaining F-16s.
Rockets also hit a military base housing the coalition at the airport in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, long seen as a haven of peace in a war-torn Middle East.
Two people were killed, including a foreign civilian contractor working with the coalition.
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In response, the United States conducted a February 26 raid on Iraqi militiamen fighting on behalf of Iran in Syria.
The US Department of Defense announced that it had killed one of them and injured two others.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), at least 22 Iraqi militia fighters perished in the raid.
Washington regularly threatens Iran with the worst, especially when one of its nationals is killed.
In early 2020, such a spiral almost degenerated into open conflict on Iraqi soil, when then US President Donald Trump sprayed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani's car in Baghdad with a drone in response to the deaths of Americans. in Iraq.