Iran-Backed Militant Group Behind Attacks On US Troops Says It’s Suspending Operations Ahead Of Potential Retaliation

(Photo by AYMAN HENNA/AFP via Getty Images)

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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One of the largest Iran-backed militant groups behind attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria in recent months suspended operations, the group said in a statement Tuesday, according to media reports.

On Monday, the Pentagon said an attack on Sunday that killed U.S. troops for the first time bore the “fingerprints” of Kataib Hezbollah, but U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) was still assessing the incident. Kataib Hezbollah said Tuesday it would stop military and security activities aimed at U.S. troops, Reuters reported, as the U.S. is preparing what appears to be a sweeping response to the deaths of U.S. military personnel.

The group said in the statement that it was motivated by a desire to “prevent embarrassment to the Iraqi government” and instructed members to switch to “passive defense” against the activities of U.S. military in Iraq and Syria, according to Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute.(RELATED: US Holding Talks With Iraqi Gov’t To Reevaluate Anti-ISIS Partnership That Could Include Troop Drawdown)

“Either this is a result of 48 [hours] of intense back-channel pressure on Iran, or KH knows what’s coming [and] wants to frame coming events as self-defense,” Lister said.

On Dec. 25, the U.S. struck facilities used by Kataib Hezbollah in response to an attack on Erbil Air Base in Iraq, that caused three injuries, one critical. Then, on Sunday, a one-way attack drone crashed into the Tower 22 base in Jordan, killing the three U.S. service members and injuring at least 40 more, according to the Pentagon.

President Joe Biden pledged Sunday to respond. The coming U.S. response promises to be more expansive than any prior retaliatory strikes since October.

“It’s fair for you to expect that we will respond in an appropriate fashion and it is very possible that what you’ll see is a tiered approach here, not just a single action, but essentially multiple actions,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said Tuesday.(RELATED: Iran Supplying Houthis With Increasingly Advanced Weaponry: REPORT)

A US soldier takes part in the "Eager Lion" multinational military manuever, in the Al-Zarqa governorate, some 85km northeast of the Jordanian capital Amman, on September 14, 2022. - The United States, Jordan, and 28 partner nations are taking part in the multinational military exercise, from September 4 to 15, 2022, representing one of the largest military exercises in the region, and designed to exchange military expertise and improve interoperability among partner nations.

A US soldier takes part in the “Eager Lion” multinational military manuever, in the Al-Zarqa governorate, some 85km northeast of the Jordanian capital Amman, on September 14, 2022. (Photo by Khalil MAZRAAWI / AFP) (Photo by KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP via Getty Images)

Kataib Hezbollah is one of two primary Iran-backed militant organizations responsible for more than 160 attacks on bases housing U.S. troops since Oct. 17, the Pentagon has said. In October, the powerful militant group had threatened to attack U.S. military bases with missiles, special forces and drones if the U.S. intervened militarily in support of Israel, Reuters reported.

“These evil people must leave the country, otherwise they will taste the fire of hell in this world before the afterlife,” the group said in an October statement, according to Reuters.

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