This week was bookended by deadly strikes in the Middle East. At the top of the order was a duo of strikes carried out in Iraq at the hands of local Iranian-backed militia groups. The first struck an airbase in Balad, north of Baghdad. The second, a barrage aimed at Baghdad’s Green Zone

The drumbeat of deadly attacks across Iraq has become consistent. Seemingly weekly, SOFREP reports on an attack; three dead here, scores more there. In the constancy of the reports and the attacks themselves, it’s easy to miss the bigger picture of what these attacks are intended to accomplish. Yes, they are aimed at killing people and destroying valuable infrastructure. But they are also part of a longer-view PSYOP carried out by Iran and its proxies. By striking U.S. and coalition assets regularly, these insurgents accomplish several key things. 

First, they remind the coalition that they can and will unleash deadly strikes at any time. These are retaliatory or symbolic. The second thing they do is set a high bar for protective posture. Want to go into the Green Zone? Better wear your flak vest and helmet. Want to get in or out? Prepare to be stopped, screened, checked and rechecked. In other words, these attacks keep Iraq a militarized zone, and sustain the social and political pressure that comes with maintaining it.  

Then came the State Department’s spokesperson Ned Price, tip-toeing his way through a tightly packaged comment on the attacks and whether the United States would respond in some way.