Two Americans and a British national were killed in a rocket attack on a base near Baghdad where U.S. military personnel are housed, according to reports.
A U.S. military spokesperson in Iraq confirmed three military coalition personnel died in the assault late Wednesday and that more than 15 small rockets hit Iraq’s Camp Taji base. In a statement, Army Col. Myles Caggins did not provide further details but the Associated Press and other outlets reported that the attack killed a U.S. soldier, a U.S. contractor and a member of Britain’s armed forces.
While Iran or its proxies have not claimed responsibility, Iran’s firing of ballistic missiles into two Iraqi military bases in January where American soldiers were based brought Washington and Tehran to the brink of war.
The U.S. has about 5,000 troops supporting Iraq’s security forces and American troops regularly come under fire in Iraq from Iran-backed militants such as Kataib Hezbollah or another Shia militia group. Caggins said an investigation is ongoing and that next of kin were being informed. However, the attack came on the same day the House approved a resolution that would bar President Donald Trump from launching a military attack against Iran without explicit congressional authorization.
The measure follows increased tensions between the U.S. and Iran after the Pentagon killed senior Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in January, leading to a retaliatory strike by Iran on another military base in Iraq hosting U.S. troops. That attack left dozens of U.S. soldiers with brain injuries.
Wednesday’s attack coincided with what would have been Soleimani’s birthday.
Two U.S. Marines were killed Sunday while advising and accompanying Iraqi security forces. The military said the two were killed during a mission to eliminate a stronghold for the Islamic State group in a mountainous area of Iraq.
Iran claims revenge for Qasem Soleimani’s killing. US Navy is still a target
The House resolution now goes to the White House, where Trump is expected to veto it. The president said it would undermine U.S. security and “show weakness.”
Supporters do not have the two-thirds supermajority needed to override a veto.
But Wednesday’s 227-to-186 vote still marked a rare bipartisan effort to curb Trump’s war powers and underscored lawmakers’ lingering concerns that U.S. tensions with Iran could escalate into a full-fledged war. Six Republicans joined 220 Democrats in supporting the war powers resolution. The measure cleared the Senate last month with eight Republicans and all Democrats voting yes.
“The American people don’t want war with Iran. The Congress has not authorized war with Iran. That should be crystal clear,” Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said during the House debate.
Engel, D-N.Y., and other Democrats said Trump brought the United States to the brink of war with Iran when he green-lighted a deadly strike targeting Tehran’s most powerful military leader, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, on Jan. 2. Iran responded by launching ballistic missiles at an Iraqi air base housing American troops, which left more than 100 service members with traumatic brain injuries.
“This isn’t deterrence,” Engel said, noting that Iran has also increased its uranium enrichment stockpile. “We’re now closer to a war with a country that’s closer to possessing a nuclear weapon.”
The Trump administration and its Republican allies said the measure was unnecessary and would undermine Trump’s ability to respond to Iranian aggression.
“This political war powers resolution is based on a false premise,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, the top GOP lawmaker on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
He said Trump has shown “remarkable restraint” in using military force and has made it clear he doesn’t want war with Iran.
“Iran and its proxies are watching right now as we spin our wheels,” McCaul said. “And what they see … (is) a divided America that does not fully support the ability of our commander in chief to adequately respond to threats against Americans.”
The White House has blasted the war powers measure as “untimely and misguided.”
In a statement threatening a veto, the White House said the U.S. “is not currently engaged in any use of force against Iran, in part because of the sound policies and decisive, effective actions of this administration.”
The chief author of the resolution, Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, hailed Wednesday’s vote as a long overdue assertion of congressional authority on matters of war.
“For years, Congress has abdicated its responsibility on matters of war, but now a bipartisan majority in both the Senate and House has made clear that we shouldn’t be engaged in hostilities with Iran without a vote of Congress,” Kaine said. He said his legislation doesn’t prevent Trump from defending America against imminent attack.
“Rather, the resolution demands that the decision of whether or not we go on offense and send our troops into harm’s way should only be made after serious deliberation and a vote of Congress,” he said. “If President Trump is serious about his promise to stop endless wars, he will sign this resolution into law.”