First Foreign Policy Test

March 30, 2021
First Foreign Policy Test

Foreign Policy “Test”

A rocket attack kills one person, injures several others – including an American soldier.

Why some call this a “test” of America’s new administration.

What Happened:

What: 14 rockets targeted “coalition forces” near a major airport.
When: Monday night, Feb 15th, 2021.
Where: Irbil (aka Erbil) a city in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq.
Who: 1 contractor killed (non-American), 8 others injured (including one American service member, and reportedly U.S. contractors). No specifics on injuries at the time of this reporting.


Who Did This? We don’t know. A little-known militia reportedly took responsibility; the same group claimed to have targeted a U.S. convoy carrying military equipment last summer.

Previous Rocket Attacks: Often blamed on Iran-backed militias by U.S. & Iraq gov’t. An attack targeted the U.S. embassy in Baghdad in Dec 2020; another killed two U.S. soldiers in March.

“This is a test of the new Biden administration to see what they can get away with.”

Analyst Michael Knights, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, underscored the seriousness of this attack to The New York Times – which reported "the size and scope of the rocket attack on Erbil was unusually large, and that it had most likely been intended to maim or kill American contractors or service members, or their Kurdish allies."

Why This Matters:

  • The role of the U.S. in both Iraq & the Middle East is a looming question.
  • Report: militias are moving toward areas previously secured in Iraq.
  • Meanwhile, Iran is pressuring the new U.S. administration to drop Trump-era sanctions and rejoin the nuclear deal.
  • Pres. Biden ran point on Iraq as VP during the Obama admin. What will define the U.S. Middle East policy in 2021 (and beyond) ?

U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken said the U.S. was "outraged" by the attack. The Iraqi President called the attack "a dangerous escalation" and "a battle of state and sovereignty against terrorism and outlaws.” Iran denies involvement despite those that call it a "Iran-sanctioned if not Iran-ordered attack."

Best Details From OIR Spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto

Update: CJTF-OIR confirms approx. 14 107 mm rockets launched with 3 impacting within EAB, Feb 15 at 2130 hours (Iraqi time). One civilian contractor was killed (Not US), and 9 injured ( 8 CIV contractors/ 1 US MIL) – 4 US/ 1 US MIL concussion protocol.

Secretary Blinken’s Call with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Kadhimi

Rocket Attacks in Erbil

Iraq Rocket Attack Targets U.S.-Led Coalition, in Test for Biden

Iraq poses an important challenge for Mr. Biden and his national-security team. During the Obama administration, then-Vice President Biden had the lead for U.S. policy toward Baghdad as the White House grappled with sectarian tensions and Iranian influence. (wsj)

U.S. forces in the area are equipped with a C-RAM, a radar-guided Gatling gun that is used to shoot down projectiles, but it wasn’t clear how it performed in the assault.

Aziz Ahmad, deputy chief of staff to Mr. Barzani, said there have been new militia deployments in the northern Iraqi cities of Mosul and Kirkuk in recent days, including in areas that are supposed to be demilitarized. However, the governor of Iraq’s northern Nineveh province, Najim al-Jabouri, said no rockets had been launched from Mosul. (The Wall Street Journal)

by Jenna Lee,