JERUSALEM, Israel - The United States believes Iran is behind a series of recent rocket attacks on military bases that house American soldiers in Iraq, CNN reports.
"We take these incidents seriously as do our Iraqi Security Forces partners, who are investigating these events. We have made clear that attacks on [the] US. and Coalition personnel and facilities will not be tolerated and we retain the right to defend ourselves. US forces operate in Iraq at the invitation of the government of Iraq to support Iraqi forces against ISIS," Pentagon spokesperson Cdr. Sean Robertson told CNN.
The attacks have become increasingly sophisticated and frequent in the last five weeks, sparking concern among US leaders that Iran could be planning more serious attacks. The most recent attack was on Monday when the Iraq military said four rockets struck near a military camp next to the Baghdad International Airport.
No US troops were killed in the airstrike but Iraqi authorities who work with US forces there said six of their troops were injured.
Monday's attack was the ninth one near US forces and interests in the last several weeks, including two attacks near the Balad and Al Assad airbases.
"Iranian-backed militias are now shelling Iraqi bases with American and anti-ISIS Coalition forces on them – Balad, al-Asad, et cetera," the US State Department's Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker told reporters Friday.
"We're waiting for full evidence," he said, "If past is prologue, I'd say there's a good chance it was Iran that's behind it."
Schenker also said the missiles used in the attacks have become more sophisticated.
Phillip Smyth, a research fellow for the Washington Institute and Iran expert told the Military Times that the attacks appear to be "clear messaging from the Iranians," but the exact message is unclear.
He said Iran can be using the rockets to distract Americans following deadly protests in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon. Iran blames the US and Israel for the protests that recently rocked the Islamic republic.
The US said on Dec. 5 that Iran responded to the protests by killing more than 1,000 civilians.
Smyth also argued that the recent rocket attacks could be a response to recent reports of potential plans to increase US troops in the Middle East.
The Military Times reports that the US has already deployed 14,000 more American troops to the US Central Command area of responsibility over the last six months following attacks on commercial oil tankers and a provocative strike on two Saudi Arabian oil facilities in September.
The US blames Iran for the attacks.
However, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper pushed back on claims that the US is planning to send even more troops to the region while speaking at an event hosted by the Reagan National Defense Forum on Saturday.
"I'm not looking at any major deployments coming up in the region. That said, on a day-to-day basis, we monitor what's happening in the Middle East, on the Korean peninsula, in the European theater – all over the world, and we make adjustments to our forces up or down based on what the needs of the commander are, and that happens again, routinely," Esper said.