Biden administration will not rule out response

A worker cleans shattered glass on February 16, 2021 outside a damaged shop following a rocket attack the previous night in Arbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region.

Safin Hamed | AFP | Getty Images

The Biden administration on Tuesday would not rule out a potential retaliation against those behind Monday’s deadly rocket attack in Iraq.

The attack in the city of Irbil in the Kurdistan region killed one civilian contractor and injured nine more people, including a U.S. service member, according to Col. Wayne Marotto, spokesman for the coalition fighting ISIS.

At least three rockets hit near the civilian Irbil International Airport late Monday night, Kurdish security sources told NBC News. A nearby base houses U.S. troops.

The Biden administration said it would wait to find out who was responsible for the attack before deciding how to react.

“The president of the United States and the administration reserves the right to respond in a timely manner of our choosing,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday during a press briefing, shortly before offering condolences to the deceased.

“But we’ll wait for the attribution to be concluded first before we take any additional steps. I will convey to you that diplomacy is a priority with this administration,” Psaki added.

Psaki added that the United States was carrying out an investigation to determine who was behind the attack.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with the Kurdistan region’s Prime Minister Masrour Barzani on the heels of the attack. Price also said that the top U.S. diplomat talked to Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi on Tuesday.

“Once we have identified a perpetrator, then it would be more appropriate to look into the motive,” Price explained when asked about possible U.S. response.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also spoke on Tuesday to Iraqi Minister of Defense Jumaah Saadoon to discuss the attack. The Pentagon said the officials reaffirmed their commitment to the strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq.

In 2019, the U.S. attributed a rocket attack on K-1 base near Kirkurk to Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-back militia group. The attack triggered a U.S. response which killed a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani.

The attack comes as the world’s most powerful military alliance, NATO, meets virtually Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the next steps in the Iraqi region.

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