Iran-backed Iraqi militia dismissed US sanctions a day after it was announced by the Biden administration, calling it “ridiculous”.
Kataeb Hezbollah (KH) has been responsible for many of the thirty-odd attacks on American troops in Iraq since last month.
In a statement published online Saturday, the group said, “well-studied strikes by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq against enemies, causing losses in their ranks and destroying vehicles or confusing or distracting them, is going according to a strategy to drain the enemy".
Iran proxies have been targeting American forces ever since Israel invaded Gaza in retaliation for Hamas terror attack of 7 October. They say the attacks will continue as long as the United States supports the Israeli onslaught on Gaza.
On Friday, the Biden administration sanctioned six people because of their affiliation with KH. Among those targeted is a member of the IRGC Quds Force, who is said to be in charge of travel and training for KH forces in Iran.
It’s not clear if the newly introduced sanctions can have a meaningful impact. The regime in Iran and its proxies have been operating largely under such restrictions for a long time.
Biden critics accuse him of “appeasing” Iran, which they say has emboldened the regime and its proxies in the region. The US has so far launched four airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, in responses to 62 drone and missile attacks in the opposite direction.
“Iran is not deterred, their proxies are not deterred,” former White House national security advisor Robert O’brien said Friday in an interview with Politico. “We’re not doing enough to protect our troops … more needs to be done.”
Criticism of the Biden administration grew once more this week after it issued a sanction waiver that allows Iraq to pay Iran the money it owes for imported electricity –up to $10 billion, reportedly.
“Iranian proxies have attacked U.S. forces 58 times since October 17. Instead of responding to these attacks swiftly and decisively, Biden released $10 billion in new funds to Iran. Money is fungible, appeasement is dangerous, and our troops deserve better,” posted Congressman Guy Reschenthaler on X.
At least 59 US military personnel have been wounded in attacks by Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria, according to Pentagon officials.
The United States has 900 troops in Syria, and 2,500 more in neighboring Iraq.
On Saturday, the commander of the IRGC warned US and Israel that they will lose the war against the “invisible” Palestinians, who “target Israeli tanks from point blank” in what he called “a war of attrition.”
General Hossein Salami said, “the US can’t save Israel from falling apart, because the US usually turns up to save Zionists when it’s too late.”
In the past few weeks, the US has deployed warships and air defense systems to the region, amid concerns that Israel’s onslaught of Gaza could trigger other groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon to officially enter the scene, putting the whole region ablaze and endangering American troops stationed across the Middle East.
Earlier this year, KH abducted Russian-Israeli researcher Elizabeth Tsurkov and last week released a video of her in the first signs of life since her kidnap in March. Studying a PhD at Princeton, her family in the US claim that the US should be doing more to secure her release, given the billions of aid annually given to Iraq, including for its army.