Iraqi Air Force helicopters land at Ain al-Asad airbase in the Anbar province, Iraq December 29, 2019.

Thaier Al-Sudani | Reuters

The Pentagon on Wednesday confirmed that nearly a dozen rockets struck an Iraqi base hosting U.S. troops.

The initial report, tweeted by U.S. Army spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto, said 10 “indirect fire” rockets hit Ain al-Asad airbase in Anbar province, where some of the 2,500 U.S. forces in Iraq are based.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that no U.S service members were injured in the attack. He added that “a U.S. civilian contractor suffered a cardiac episode while sheltering and sadly passed away shortly after.”

The Pentagon has deferred the investigation to the Iraqi military.

“Iraqi security forces are on scene and investigating. We cannot attribute responsibility at this time, and we do not have a complete picture of the extent of the damage. We stand by as needed to assist our Iraqi partners as they investigate,” the statement read.

The Biden administration was briefed on the attack overnight and has “reached out to field and military to assess the damage and check on personnel,” a White House official told NBC News.

Wednesday’s attack on Ain al-Asad comes on the heels of Biden’s decision to strike Iran-aligned militia targets in Syria.

Those strikes in Syria were seen as a retaliatory effort against the Feb. 15 rocket attack in Erbil. The Biden administration had hinted at retaliation in a news conference on Feb. 17.

“It is fair to say that there will be consequences for any group responsible for this attack,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

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The skirmishes could upset what the Biden administration considers a foreign policy priority: a return to the Iranian nuclear deal, also known as the JCPOA, that was penned under the Obama administration with several world powers and lifted economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs to its nuclear program.  

The deal has all but collapsed since the Trump administration unilaterally ditched it in 2018 and re-imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran that have crippled its economy.  

-CNBC’s Natasha Turak and Amanda Macias contributed to this report.



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