A missile attack on the Taji military base, just north of Baghdad, killed two foreign soldiers, one American, the other British, and a US civilian contractor on Wednesday. The attack came just days after two US troops were killed while supporting Iraqi forces in clashes with Islamic State terrorists near the capital. While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the rocket attack, Iraqi fighters aligned with Iran – collectively known as Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMFs – have been blamed for targeting more than 20 American installations, including the US Embassy, on numerous occasions since October. In response to the latest incident, the US-led anti-ISIS military coalition reportedly conducted air strikes that killed more than two dozen PMF members based in neighboring Syria. Over the past months, Iraq has become the primary scene of tit-for-tat military exchanges between Washington and Tehran, with perhaps the most significant being the January 3 assassination in a US drone strike of Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani. The Islamic Republic quickly retaliated with a coordinated missile attack on two Iraqi bases housing US soldiers, scores of whom suffered brain-related injuries. Tensions have waned, however, as much of the world’s focus has shifted to containing the coronavirus outbreak. Iran is the hardest-hit Middle Eastern country, with over 8,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 causing more than 400 deaths.
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