US will respond to attacks by Iranian-backed groups: former Coalition spox

“If Iran responds and does more attacks on US soldiers in Syria and diplomatic facilities, you can expect America will respond again with more bombs on these Iranian-backed militias.”
Retired US Army Col. Myles B. Caggins III (Photo: Kurdistan 24)
Retired US Army Col. Myles B. Caggins III (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Retired US Army Col. Myles B. Caggins III, a former spokesman for the US-led Coalition in Iraq and Syria and a senior fellow at the New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy, on Saturday told Kurdistan 24 that the US will continue to respond to attacks by Iranian-backed armed groups.

Read More: US bombs IRGC sites in eastern Syria, following attack on Erbil Airport

Iranian attacks

Iranian-linked groups have recently carried out multiple attacks on US bases in both Iraq and Syria, including Erbil’s airport. These attacks were in response to perceived US support for Israel in the conflict involving Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“We have already seen Iran taking action against the United States. Iran has attacked American soldiers and coalition soldiers at bases inside of Iraq, including not too far away from your [Kurdistan 24] studio in Erbil at the airport,” Caggins said.

“These attacks have been consistent. They have been sustained for more than one week's time and it is my assessment that Iran is attempting to kill American soldiers. As a result, the United States conducted airstrikes on Kata'ib Hezbollah targets in eastern Syria,” Caggins added.

“These airstrikes were near Abu Kamal, and if Iran responds and does more attacks on US soldiers in Syria and diplomatic facilities, you can expect America will respond again with more bombs on these Iranian-backed militias,” he said.

Read More: US orders evacuation of family and non-essential US personnel from Erbil and Baghdad

US emergency measures

On Oct. 20, the US State Department ordered the departure of eligible family members and non-emergency US government personnel from the country’s Baghdad embassy and Erbil consulate due to increased security threats.

“These procedures are what we call an ordered departure. So the United States will send non-essential personnel home. Some of our diplomats have members of their family at the embassy or maybe some of them are in duties that are not critical for the mission, and America is making a wise decision to remove non-combatants and non-essential personnel from harm's way.”

Moreover, Caggins said countries are making similar decisions to keep their people safe. “This has an impact on Iraq's reputation in the world. These outlaw militia groups are attacking facilities like the Erbil airport base and they are also attacking the Baghdad airport base. This is causing concern around the world and will have a negative outcome for the Iraqi economy and Iraq's reputation for tourists.”

“It is important that these Iranian-backed militias immediately stop all of their attacks.”

Caggins and analyst Carolyn Moorman also recently wrote an article for the New Lines Institute on the importance of creating a policy to have a visa and immigration program for Syrians who helped the anti-ISIS coalition, in case the US leaves Syria.

Visas for Syrians

“Let me make this very clear, I have no special knowledge of a decision timeline [for the US] to leave Syria. What I do know is the following nations want America out of Syria immediately: Syria wants America out. Russia, Turkey, and Iran. They all want America out of Syria,” Caggins noted.

“The American president has not set a clear policy for what America is doing in Syria. Now, of course, your viewers know, I know, my friends, Rojava, Bakur, they all know that America is there to support the Syrian Democratic Forces. And the Syrian Democratic Forces are the true champions against ISIS.”

“But we need to have a policy that treats members of the Syrian Democratic Forces the same way that we treated Afghans and Iraqis,” Caggins added, while referring to mass refugee exodus’ in countries where American combat missions ended.

Oil exports

Moreover, the Association of the Petroleum Industry of Kurdistan (APIKUR), an association representing foreign oil companies in the Kurdistan Region, in August appointed Caggins, as its spokesperson.

Since March 25, Kurdish oil exports through Turkey's Ceyhan port have been halted after Iraq claimed victory in a case against Ankara at the International Court of Arbitration in France.

Caggins said that APIKUR members “are helping to produce more than 200,000 barrels per day (in the Kurdistan Region) at full production.”

Read More: Oil companies in Kurdistan call for resumption of oil exports

He also noted it is important oil produced in the Kurdistan Region is sold in the global markets to maintain the price of gasoline around the world and to have more economic security.

He concluded the interview by saying that the APIKUR members “expect that we will have a method of receiving past payments and we want to have clarity about future payments. Our members want to get everybody back to work and we want the oil flowing as soon as possible.”