U.S. bombs Iran-backed militia in Iraq following attack that killed two American and one British soldier

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON – The United States waged a series of precision airstrikes on Thursday against an Iran-backed militia in Iraq that it blamed for a major rocket attack a day earlier that killed two American troops and a 26-year-old British soldier. The U.S. strikes appeared limited in scope and narrowly tailored, targeting five weapons storage facilities used by Kataib Hezbollah militants -- including facilities used to store weaponry for past attacks on U.S.-led coalition troops, the Pentagon said. Iraq's military said in a statement that the U.S. airstrikes hit four locations in Iraq. The U.S. military did not estimate how many people in Iraq may have been killed in the strikes, which officials said were carried out by piloted aircraft. But there no was no indication of the kind of high-profile killings that President Donald Trump authorized in January, when the United States targeted a top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani.

Rocket Attack Kills Three U.S. Coalition Members in Iraq

NYT > Middle East

The American retaliation led to a siege of the United States Embassy in Baghdad and then an American drone attack that killed the leader of Iran's elite Quds force, Maj. The cycle of attacks and counterattacks ended more than two weeks later after Iran launched 16 cruise missiles at bases in Iraq that house American forces. No one was killed by the Iranian missile attacks and tensions had appeared to subside. An Iraqi military official said that hours after the attack on Wednesday, the American-led coalition responded with airstrikes on camps used by Kataib Hezbollah near Abu Kamal in Syria, just across the border from Qaim, Iraq. However American officials said the United States had not carried out those strikes.

What do we look for in a 'good' robot colleague?


With a tank-like continuous track and an angular arm reminiscent of the Pixar lamp, the lightweight PackBot robot was designed to seek out, defuse and dispose of the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that killed and injured thousands of coalition soldiers during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bomb disposal was and is highly dangerous work, but the robot could take on the riskiest parts while its human team controlled it remotely from a safer distance. US Army explosive ordinance disposal technician Phillip Herndon was assigned a PackBot during his first tour in Iraq. Herndon's team named their robot Duncan, after a mission when the robot glitched and began spinning in circles, or doughnuts (doughnuts led to Dunkin Donuts, hence Duncan). His fellow bomb disposal techs named theirs too, and snapped photos of themselves next to robots holding Xbox controllers, dressed in improvised costumes or posing with a drink in their claws.

In wake of Soleimani's death, Tehran-backed Hezbollah steps in to guide Iraqi militias

The Japan Times

Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq, the Tehran-backed Lebanese organization Hezbollah urgently met with Iraqi militia leaders, seeking to unite them in the face of a huge void left by their powerful mentor's death, two sources with knowledge of the meetings said. The meetings were meant to coordinate the political efforts of Iraq's often-fractious militias, which lost not only Soleimani but also Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a unifying Iraqi paramilitary commander, in the Jan. 3 attack at Baghdad airport, the sources said. While offering few details, two additional sources in a pro-Iran regional alliance confirmed that Hezbollah, which is sanctioned as a terrorist group by the United States, has stepped in to help fill the void left by Soleimani in guiding the militias. All sources in this article spoke on condition of anonymity to address sensitive political activities rarely addressed in public. Officials with the governments of Iraq and Iran did not respond to requests for comment, nor did a spokesperson for the militia groups.

More Than 100 Troops Have Brain Injuries From Iran Missile Strike, Pentagon Says

NYT > Middle East

And as the injury toll has mounted, veterans groups and others have levied criticism at the White House, in part because, in January, President Trump dismissed the injuries as "not very serious." "I heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things," Mr. Trump said at a news conference Jan. 22 in Davos, Switzerland. "I don't consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries I have seen." At least a dozen missiles were fired during the attack, which was a retaliation for the killing of a top Iranian general, Qassim Suleimani, by an American drone strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3. The Trump administration at first said there were no injuries, but a week later said several service members were evaluated for possible concussions.

Biden says he would not have ordered drone strike that killed Soleimani

FOX News

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham reacts to criticism from Democrats and Republican Sen. Rand Paul on the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani on'America's Newsroom.' Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday said he would not have given the order to launch the airstrike that killed Iranian Quds Force Gen. Qassem Soleimani if he was the commander in chief. Biden was asked about the attack during the Democratic presidential debate in New Hampshire. "No, and the reason I wouldn't have ordered the strike is there isn't any evidence yet of an imminent strike that was going to come from him," he said while on stage next to his Democratic rivals at Saint Anselm College in Manchester. Soleimani was killed last month in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad that ordered by President Trump.

Iraq considers deepening military ties with Russia

The Japan Times

BAGHDAD – Iraq and Russia discussed prospects for deepening military coordination, Iraq's Defense Ministry said Thursday, amid a strain in Baghdad-Washington relations after a U.S. airstrike killed a top Iranian general inside Iraq. The ministry statement followed a meeting in Baghdad between Iraqi army chief of staff Lt. Gen. Othman Al-Ghanimi and Iraq's Russian Ambassador Maksim Maksimov, as well as a newly arrived defense attache. The meeting comes during an uncertain moment in the future of Iraq-U.S. military relations, following the Jan. 3 U .S. drone strike that killed Iran's most powerful military commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and Iraqi senior militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis near Baghdad airport. The attack continues to create friction, prompting powerful Shiite parties to call for an overhaul of the existing strategic set-up between Iraq and the U.S.-led coalition. Al-Ghanimi praised Moscow's role in the battle against the Islamic State group, saying they had provided "our armed forces with advanced and effective equipment and weapons that had a major role in resolving many battles," according to the ministry statement.

Key U.S. general slips into Iraq for talks to salvage relations

The Japan Times

ABOARD, A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT – The top U.S. commander for the Middle East slipped quietly into Iraq Tuesday, as the Trump administration works to salvage relations with Iraqi leaders and shut down the government's push for an American troop withdrawal. Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie became the most senior U.S. military official to visit since an American drone strike in Baghdad last month killed a top Iranian general, enraging the Iraqis. McKenzie met with Iraq leaders in Baghdad and then went to see American troops at al-Asad Air base, which was bombed by Iran last month in retaliation for the drone attack. Later, he said he was "heartened" by the meetings, adding, "I think we're going to be able to find a way forward." His visit comes amid heightened anti-American sentiment that has fueled violent protests, rocket attacks on the embassy and a vote by the Iraqi parliament pushing for withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country.

Iraq: Anti-ISIS operations with US are resuming

FOX News

Fox News Flash top headlines for Jan. 30 are here. Check out what's clicking on Joint military operations between coalition and Iraqi forces against the Islamic State group will resume, the Iraqi military said Thursday, after a nearly three-week pause that saw tensions between Washington and Tehran come to a boiling point. The escalations with Iran began after a U.S. drone strike killed one of its top generals in Baghdad earlier this month. Iraqi lawmakers subsequently voted to expel U.S. troops from the country in a non-binding resolution, a move Iraqi military officials said would jeopardize its fight against ISIS, which had overtaken large swaths of the country several years ago and has since been defeated.

Brain injuries in Iraq attack cast spotlight on invisible war wounds, despite being dismissed by Trump as mere 'headaches'

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON – The spotlight on brain injuries suffered by American troops in Iraq in January is an example of America's episodic attention to this invisible war wound, which has affected hundreds of thousands over the past two decades but is not yet fully understood. Unlike physical wounds, such as burns or the loss of limbs, traumatic brain injuries aren't obvious and can take time to diagnose. The full impact -- physically and psychologically -- may not be evident for some time, as studies have shown links between TBI and mental health problems. They cannot be dismissed as mere "headaches" -- the word used by President Donald Trump as he said the injuries suffered by the troops in Iraq were not necessarily serious. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a veteran of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, told reporters Thursday that the number of service members diagnosed with TBI from the Jan. 8 Iranian missile attack in Iraq has now grown beyond the 50 reported earlier this week, although he provided no specific number.