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Large-scale indirect fire attack against Qayyarah West Airfield tied to US-Iran tensions

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At approximately 19:45 on 8 November, 17 rockets were fired against Qayyarah West Airfield, a major joint CF-ISF base located south of Mosul. Several rockets impacted in and around the base, though no casualties were reported.  ISF discovered a mobile launch platform near an asphalt factory located only 4km east of the base perimeter. The truck was rigged to fire rockets remotely, with several rockets that failed to fire recovered. A Kata’ib al-Imam Ali PMF headquarters was reportedly located near the point of origin. CF and the GoI refrained from issuing official accusations of responsibility due to relevant sensitivities, while no organization has claimed responsibility.

The 8 November incident stands out as the first indirect fire attack against Qayyarah West Airfield since the period leading up to the battle for Mosul in October 2016. The sprawling base currently hosts a large number of US military personnel including an artillery unit, advisor units, and headquarters and support personnel. As such, while technically an ISF location, it serves as one of many symbols of an enduring US military presence in Iraq.  The 8 November attack closely follows rocket attacks against the Taji Military Complex and US Embassy in late October. In conjunction with the proximate presence of a PMF headquarters, an Iranian proxy is similarly assessed to be the most likely perpetrators.

As undoubtedly intended by the responsible actor, the 8 November attack against this major base justifiably garnered significant headlines for involving roughly 17 rockets. As with the attacks against the Taji Military Complex and US Embassy in late October, this ongoing series of attacks occurred amongst the latest escalations in tensions between the US and Iran. In addition to broader anti-Iranian pressures, current tensions in Iraq center the ongoing wave of civil unrest in Baghdad and the Southern Region. The Iranian government transitioned these concerns into questionable claims that the US and its allies were driving the demonstrations, repeatedly threatening US government interests in Iraq including the embassy.

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