Iran Commander’s Visit to Baghdad Halts Attacks on US Troops in Iraq: Sources

Tehran’s desire to prevent a broader conflict in the region led to a halt in attacks on American troops in Iraq, according to Iranian and Iraqi sources.

Less than 48 hours after three US soldiers were killed in Jordan in January, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, Esmail Qaani, made a visit to Baghdad. This visit, according to Iranian and Iraqi sources, played a significant role in halting attacks on American troops in Iraq. The sources reveal that the visit was a clear indication of Tehran’s desire to prevent a broader conflict in the region, particularly after Iran-aligned groups had intensified attacks on US targets in Iraq and Syria due to Israel’s war on Gaza. Qaani’s meeting with representatives of various armed groups in Baghdad airport served as a warning against further attacks on American forces.

The Context of the Visit

The visit by Qaani took place just two days after the US blamed certain groups for an attack that killed three American soldiers in Jordan. This attack marked the first public deaths of US soldiers since the outbreak of the war on Gaza in October. The strike on Tower 22 in northeast Jordan sent shockwaves through Washington, prompting concerns about escalating tensions in the region.

Qaani’s Message to Iraqi Factions

During his visit, Qaani met with representatives of several armed groups in Iraq. According to Reuters, which cited multiple sources including politicians, security officials, diplomats, and members of armed groups, Qaani emphasized the risks of killing Americans. He warned that such actions could provoke a heavy US response, including strikes on senior commanders, destruction of key infrastructure, or even direct retaliation against Iran.

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The Response from Militias

Although one faction initially disagreed with Qaani’s request, the majority of the armed groups in Iraq heeded his warning. The most powerful and active Iranian-backed Shia militia in Iraq, Kataeb Hezbollah, announced the suspension of attacks following Qaani’s visit. This decision was crucial in de-escalating tensions and preventing further attacks on US forces.

US Strikes in Retaliation

Despite the halt in attacks on US troops, the US military launched strikes on 85 targets in Syria and Iraq on February 2nd, claiming that these targets were affiliated with Iran and its allies. This retaliation came a week after Qaani’s visit and coincided with the US assessment that Iran was trying to rein in its proxies to avoid a wider war.

Qaani’s Impact on the Situation

The impact of Qaani’s visit and his direct intervention cannot be understated. According to a senior commander in one of the Iran-aligned Iraqi armed groups, without Qaani’s involvement, convincing Kataeb Hezbollah to halt its military operations and de-escalate tensions would have been impossible. Since Qaani’s visit, there have been no attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria, a notable contrast to the more than 20 attacks that occurred in the two weeks prior.

Conclusion:

The visit of Iran’s Quds Force commander, Esmail Qaani, to Baghdad had a significant impact on the situation in Iraq. It led to a halt in attacks on American troops, demonstrating Tehran’s desire to prevent a broader conflict in the region. Qaani’s warning about the risks of attacking Americans, coupled with his direct intervention, convinced most armed groups, including Kataeb Hezbollah, to suspend their military operations. While the US retaliated with strikes on targets affiliated with Iran and its allies, the situation has remained relatively calm since Qaani’s visit. This episode highlights the delicate balance of power and the potential for de-escalation in the region, as well as the influence of key actors in shaping the course of events.

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