In Wake of US Airstrikes, Iranian-Backed Militia Official Hints at Desire to De-Escalate Conflict

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An Iraqi militia official on Saturday hinted at a desire to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East following retaliatory strikes launched by the United States against dozens of sites in Iraq and Syria used by Iranian-backed militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

In an interview with The Associated Press in Baghdad, Hussein al-Mosawi, spokesperson for Harakat al-Nujaba — one of the main Iranian-backed militias in Iraq — condemned the U.S. airstrikes, saying Washington “must understand that every action elicits a reaction.” But he then struck a more conciliatory tone, saying that “we do not wish to escalate or widen regional tensions.”

Mosawi said the targeted sites in Iraq were mainly “devoid of fighters and military personnel at the time of the attack.”

Suggesting there wasn’t much damage could allow Mosawi to justify the lack of a strong response.

Syrian state media reported there were casualties from the strikes but did not give a number. Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said 23 people were killed in the Syria strikes, all rank-and-file fighters.

Iraqi government spokesperson Bassim al-Awadi said in a statement Saturday that the strikes in Iraq near the Syrian border killed 16, including civilians, and there was “significant damage” to homes and private properties.

A U.S. official said Saturday that an initial battle damage assessment showed the U.S. had struck each of its planned targets in addition to a few “dynamic targets” that popped up as the mission unfolded, including a surface-to-air missile site and drone launch sites.

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