Iraq Strike Doesn't Indicate Change in U.S. Policy, Say Israeli Defense Officials

Defense officials don’t know whether Shi’ite militia’s lethal rocket fire on Iraqi base was ordered by Iran

Fighters from the Kataןb Hezbollah inspect the destruction at their headquarters in the aftermath of a U.S. airstrike in Qaim, Iraq, December 30, 2019.

UPDATE: U.S. ambassador evacuated as Iraqi protesters break into embassy after airstrikes

Israeli defense officials judge that the U.S. airstrikes Sunday in Iraq and Syria that killed fighters in an Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia organization will not affect the Israel military.

Washington accused the Kataib Hezbollah militia of firing rockets at an Iraqi base in the city of Kirkuk over the weekend, killing a U.S. civilian contractor.

Israel’s defense establishment believes the militia receives orders from Iran, but doesn’t know whether the rocket attack was carried out on direct orders from Tehran or independently.

Israeli defense officials say that Kataib Hezbollah has no connection to the Hezbollah organization in Lebanon, and therefore the likelihood of a response targeting Israel from beyond the northern border is small.

Last week Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said that he expected additional states to join the fight against Tehran.

But after Sunday’s U.S. airstrikes, Israeli defense officials were quick to stress that they don’t signal a change in direction by U.S. President Donald Trump regarding his country’s military conduct in the Middle East.

They said the strikes were most likely a limited response to the killing of a U.S. citizen rather than a sign of a significant policy change. They likened it to the Iran’s downing of a U.S. drone in June and the attack on oil installations in Saudi Arabia in September, to which there was no military response.

On Sunday the U.S. military attacked Kataib Hezbollah targets in Iraq and Syria. The army reported that the strikes had hit five targets, including weapons storage facilities and command and control bases that were used for planning and executing attacks against the coalition forces in Iraq, headed by the United States.

According to security sources in Iraq, at least 25 militia fighters were killed and 55 more were wounded in the attacks.