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Rocket attack near BIAP marks Iranian response to partial reduction in US forces

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At approximately 14:45 on 10 September, according to the Security Media Cell and social media sources, one 107mm Katyusha rocket impacted near Baghdad International Airport (BIAP), west of Baghdad city. No casualties or other losses were reported. Unconfirmed reports from social media sources affiliated with Iranian-backed militia groups cited the launch of two rockets. This was said to include one impact at the military post office near the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center, located along the western perimeter of the BIAP complex.

The Security Media Cell reported that ISF discovered the point of origin in the Furat neighborhood of west Baghdad city, located roughly 6km east of the suspected target area. No further details were provided for what was discovered at the point of origin, with the employment or intended employment of two rockets not discounted accordingly.

Attack marks pro-Iranian response to announcement of partial reduction in US forces:
At least 13 rocket attacks were conducted against the US Embassy and other US-affiliated sites in central Iraq since August, headlining broader increases in militant activity surrounding the strategic dialogue between the US and Iraqi governments concerning the future presence of US forces. Related high-profile activity included a suspected armed UAV attack against a PSC site in central Baghdad on 3 September, as well as almost daily IED attacks against US-contracted logistics convoys. At least five rocket attacks were conducted in the vicinity of BIAP since mid-August. Primary assessed targets comprised US-affiliated military and diplomatic sites including the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center and former Camp Cropper, located along the western periphery of the BIAP complex.

Most of these attacks involved established tactics involving the employment of 2-4 rockets during hours of darkness, with impacts concentrated in and around military facilities. However, elevated attack intent has contributed to some significant alterations. The next most recent attack on 6 September stood out for all three rockets impacting on the civilian side of the airport. No casualties were reported, but four vehicles were damaged. The 10 September attack affected typical target areas outside the civilian side, serving as another indicator that the 6 September attack reflected errant results as opposed to signaling a shift in targeting patterns.

The 10 September attack was closely preceded by an announcement made by US CENTCOM Commander Marine General Frank McKenzie the day prior confirming intent to partially reduce US forces in Iraq from 5,200 personnel to 3,000 personnel this month. The announcement was made while the senior commander conducted a visit to Iraq, with events also including a change of command ceremony for the CF commander on 9 September. The general undoubtedly transited through military facilities at BIAP. It is probable that the 10 September attack involved intent to hastily execute a strategic-level statement of opposition to an enduring US military presence, against a target location that was perceivably appropriate for the announcement. Relevant timing influences possibly contributed to the most significant tactical components of the 10 September attack.

Brazen attack during daylight hours underscores risks to commercial aviation:
The titled incident significantly stood out as the first confirmed rocket attack affecting BIAP during daylight hours since the spike in US-Iran tensions emerged in 2019. This represented a key deviation from typical attacks during hours of darkness when commercial aviation operations are limited. Additionally, the locations of the point of origin and point of impacts indicate the rocket(s) flew over commercial airspace. This deviated from the most typical points of origin south and west of the airport, and impacts along the western periphery. A similar abnormality was in effect for the 6 September attack, which involved a point of origin north of the airport.

For further discussion and analysis please see the full report.

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