The U.S. military killed 24 militants and wounded 50 others in a series of airstrikes Sunday in Iraq and Syria on the Iranian-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah. The airstrikes were meant as retaliation for attacks Friday that killed one U.S. contractor in Kirkuk, Iraq, and to deter future attacks, U.S. officials said, but the high death toll and perceived violation of Iraqi sovereignty shifted the focus of Iraq's street protests from anger at Iran's political machinations to anti-American sentiment, culminating in calls for the U.S. to leave Iraq, The New York Times reports.
Iraq's prime minister and top Shiite cleric both denounced the U.S. airstrikes Monday and warned they could lead to a proxy war between Iran and the U.S. in Iraq.
Iraqis viewed the 24 militia deaths for one U.S. contractor as an overreaction on America's part. "And while the militia is closely tied to Iran, many Iraqis see it primarily as an Iraqi force and were angered by an attack on it by an outside power," the Times reports. "For Iran, the reversal comes at an opportune moment, as it has faced pushback around the region and unrest and economic distress at home." Kataib Hezbollah denied carrying out Friday's deadly attack on Monday and vowed "retaliation" for the airstrikes.