Washington will “do what is necessary” after the rocket attack in Iraq

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The United States will “do whatever is necessary to (itself) defend” after rockets fired at a base housing American soldiers in Iraq, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

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Ten rockets hit the Ain al-Assad air base on Wednesday, killing an American civilian subcontractor. The United States has so far refrained from directly blaming one of the pro-Iran Iraqi armed factions for this attack, preceded by several others with the same modus operandi in recent weeks.

“We encourage the Iraqis to act as quickly as possible to investigate the incident and they are in the process of doing so,” Austin told ABC channel, adding that his country was still collecting information on its perpetrators.

“But you can expect us to always hold people accountable for their actions,” he added. “The message for those who have committed such an attack is expect us to do what is necessary to defend ourselves.”

“We will strike if we think that’s what we need to do, when and where we choose to do it,” he continued. “We demand the right to protect our troops.”

The channel asked the Pentagon chief if Iran had been informed that retaliation would not mean escalation.

“I think Iran is fully capable of assessing … the strike and our activities and they will draw their own conclusions,” Austin replied.

“But what they should take away from this, again, is that we are going to defend our military and that our response will be thoughtful, appropriate. We hope they will do the right thing ”.

The news of rocket fire comes amid tensions between Washington and Tehran over Iran’s nuclear program and the prospect of negotiations to relaunch the 2015 agreement that is supposed to frame it.