A recovery truck lifts the remains of a car destroyed by a US drone strike, eastern Baghdad, Iraq, February 7, 2024 (AP)

Videocast Special: Explaining the Conflicts Across the Middle East and Iran

Continuing its retaliation for the killing and wounding of American troops by Iran-backed militia, the US has slain a commander of the Iraqi faction Kata’ib Hezbollah.

A drone strike on a car in Baghdad killed Wissam Mohammed al-Saadi and two other militiamen late Wednesday.

A crowd gathered on a main thoroughfare in the Mashtal neighbourhood in the east of the Iraqi capital, as emergency response teams combed through wreckage. Security forces closed off the Green Zone, where diplomatic compounds are located, as militias issued calls for protesters to storm the US Embassy.

US Central Command said al-Saadi was targeted “in response to the attacks on US service members”. The commander was “responsible for directly planning and participating in” the strikes.

On January 28, a militia drone attack from eastern Syria killed three US troops and wounded 34 at an outpost in Jordan. The Islamic Republic in Iraq, a coalition which includes Kata’ib Hezbollah, claimed responsibility.

Six days later, the US hit 85 positions of Iran-backed militia in Iraq and Syria, targeting command and control centers, intelligence centers, rockets, missiles, drone storages, and logistics and munition supply chain facilities.

After the US attacks, Kata’ib Hezbollah said it was suspending operations against American personnel. But on February 5, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq killed at least seven US-supported Kurdish fighters and wounded 18 in a drone strike on an American base in eastern Syria.

US Central Command said on Wednesday, “The United States will continue to take necessary action to protect our people. We will not hesitate to hold responsible all those who threaten our forces’ safety.”

Iraq’s pro-Iran Al-Nujaba movement pledged a “targeted retaliation”: “These crimes will not go unpunished”. It called for “a firm official position from the Iraqi Government” to stop American “violations”.