After the escalation in US – Iran relations almost four months ago, Iranian-backed militias have stepped up their military campaign against US targets in Iraq. Over the course of four months, the militias have carried multiple rocket attacks on US bases. The attacks are likely aimed at demonstrating the costs of the US ‘maximum pressure’ campaign on Iran as well as increasing the costs of the US military presence in Iraq.
Following the increase in attacks, the US has withdrawn its forces from smaller and more remote bases to larger bases equipped with missile defence systems. Although US officials have stated that the withdrawals were planned beforehand, the move follows a rise in tensions. On March 11, a rocket attack on Camp Taji killed two US soldiers and one British medic causing coalition forces to carry out retaliatory strikes against militia targets in Iraq.
As the current COVID-19 crisis has taken up a substantial amount of attention and resources of both governments, the risk of outright conflict between the two sides is currently relatively low. Nevertheless, the sustained attacks on US targets in Iraq always carry with them the potential of causing a renewed escalation. This is especially the case if such an attack results in US casualties.