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US mulls possible military response to rocket attack on Iraq base

US mulls possible military response to rocket attack on Iraq base
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The White House on Wednesday said it is considering a military response to a rocket attack on an air base in western Iraq that houses U.S. and coalition troops.

At least 10 rockets struck Al Asad air base in Iraq's Anbar province earlier Wednesday, with a U.S. contractor suffering a heart attack during the bombardment and later dying.

“We are following that through right now,” President BidenJoe BidenObama, Clinton reflect on Mondale's legacy Biden, Harris commend Mondale in paving the way for female VP Mondale in last message to staff: 'Joe in the White House certainly helps' MORE told reporters. “Thank God, no one was killed by the rocket. One individual, a contractor, died of a heart attack. But we’re identifying who’s responsible and we’ll make judgments.”

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White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiWhite House readies for Chauvin verdict The Memo: Russia tensions rise with Navalny's life in balance Top House Republicans ask Harris for meeting on border MORE, meanwhile, said the administration is still assessing who is to blame for the attack but indicated that the “calculated, proportionate” U.S. airstrikes last week “will be our model moving forward.”

Psaki was referring to the U.S. strike on an Iranian-backed militia along the Iraq-Syria border on Feb. 25 that resulted in the death of one militiaman. That attack was in response to a Feb. 16 strike on U.S.-led troops in northern Iraq that killed a civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member.

“If we assess a further response is warranted, we will take action again in a manner and time of our choosing,” Psaki said. “What we won't do is make a hasty and ill-informed decision.”

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the Wednesday morning strike, which has officials worried of a cycle of retaliation attacks, much like those that took place last year and included the U.S. drone strike that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in January 2020.

The strike that killed Soleimani nearly pushed Washington and Tehran to the brink of war when Iran responded with a missile attack that caused traumatic brain injuries for dozens of U.S. troops stationed at the same base hit on Wednesday.  

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The attack and the subsequent death of the contractor also complicates the Biden administration’s push to restart talks with Iran over the 2015 nuclear deal.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said if a response is warranted for the latest attack the United States has “shown clearly that we won't shy away from that but we’re just not there yet."

“I’m not prepared to speak to potential future responses at this time,” Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon. “If we determine that a response is necessary we’ll do that in a manner and time and place of our choosing.”

Kirby also said the U.S. can’t yet attribute responsibility for the attack and that Iraqi security forces are still reviewing the extent of the damage.

The strike comes two days before Pope FrancisPope FrancisPope calls for easing of tensions between Russia and Ukraine Pope Francis asks Minnesota bishop to resign following Vatican probe Biden should look to 'Ostpolitik' to negotiate with autocrats MORE is set to visit Iraq, with stops in Baghdad, Erbil and southern Iraq.