Baghdad is “not happy” with a “dangerous” threat by Washington to pull its troops and diplomats out of Iraq, Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said Wednesday.
Several political and diplomatic sources have told AFP that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued an ultimatum last week that all US personnel would leave Iraq unless the government puts a stop to a rash of attacks against them.
“A US withdrawal could lead to further pullouts” by members of the US-led coalition fighting holdout jihadists, which would be “dangerous, because the Islamic State group threatens not only Iraq but the whole region,” the minister said.
“We hope that the United States will rethink its decision,” which at the moment is only “preliminary”, Hussein added. “Some people in Washington make parallels with Benghazi but it’s a faulty analysis, just as this is a faulty decision,” he said, referring to Libya’s second city.
Four US personnel, including the ambassador to Libya, were killed in Benghazi in 2012, when militants among a crowd of protesters stormed the US consulate. Between October 2019 and July this year in Iraq, around 40 rocket attacks have targeted the US embassy or bases housing US troops.
Since Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi was received in the White House amid great fanfare in August, the frequency of such attacks has increased significantly.
In the space of just two months, another 40 attacks have taken place, targeting not only the embassy and military bases, but also the supply convoys of Iraqi contractors for Washington and its allies.
Rockets hit Kurdish Iraq
In the latest attack, several rockets fell in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region in the environs of a base used by the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, a commander for that group said. Kurdish Iraqi authorities pinned the blame on the Hashed al-Shaabi, an Iraqi state-sponsored paramilitary network dominated by pro-Iran forces.
“Six rockets were fired from Nineveh province by the Hashed al-Shaabi, targeting Arbil airport,” where US troops are based, the Iraqi Kurdish region’s counter-terrorism division said. Before that latest volley of rockets, the Iraqi foreign minister said “attacks on foreign embassies are attacks on the government, which has responsibility for protecting them.”
Recent attacks have mostly been claimed by little known factions among the array of armed groups equipped and trained by neighbouring Iran during the war against the extremists of the Islamic State group. The armed groups have been locked in a tug-of-war with Kadhemi, who is seen as more pro-American than some of his predecessors.
Underlining the risks, a rocket attack targeting Baghdad airport hit a nearby home on Monday evening, killing five children and two women from the same family. The US still has hundreds of diplomats in its mission in the high-security Green Zone in Baghdad and around 3,000 troops based in three bases across the country.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk