Iraq condemns US airstrikes on militia bases


Iraq has condemned US airstrikes on militia bases at its border with Syria as “sinful” and a violation of the country’s sovereignty, reports The Independent. Prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi issued a statement from the national security council saying the attacks would force Iraq to review its relationship with the American-led international coalition. Iraq’s Foreign Ministry also said it would summon the US ambassador in Baghdad to express the government’s disapproval.

The airstrikes on Sunday killed at least 25 members of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah Brigades, one of the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU) which are part of Iraq’s official security forces.  US officials said the raids were carried out in retaliation for a rocket attack on a base used by American personnel in northern Iraq. One civilian contractor was killed and four were injured.  

The incident has raised fears of escalating armed conflict between the US and Iran in Iraq, which is already struggling to recover from the war against Isis while facing weekly protests demanding the removal of the government.  On Monday Iraq’s ministerial council for national security held an emergency meeting to “examine the repercussions of the attack”. “The Iraqi government condemns this act and considers it a violation of the sovereignty of Iraq and a grave violation of the rules of action of the coalition forces, including the American forces, to carry out operations without the approval of the Iraqi government,” the council said in a statement issued by the office of the Iraqi prime minister.

“This operation targeted Iraqi forces holding a significant front on the border against the remnants of Isis. This endangers the security and sovereignty of Iraq, and also threatens the security of all without exception.” The council criticised the US for making the decision based on Washington’s own political priorities rather than those of the people of Iraq. “Iraq has repeatedly stressed its refusal to be a battleground or a party to any regional or international conflict, and has made strenuous efforts to prevent frictions and reduce clashes in a country and region that has lived for decades for an atmosphere of conflict, interference, occupation and wars,” the council added.

“This sinful attack violates the goals and principles for which the international coalition is formed, which pushes Iraq to review the relationship and the security and political and legal work contexts in a manner that preserves the sovereignty and security of the country, protecting the lives of its children and promoting common interests.”

Mr Abdul-Mahdi told cabinet members that he had tried to stop the US operation “but there was insistence” from American officials. “The prime minister described the American attack on the Iraqi armed forces as an unacceptable vicious assault that will have dangerous consequences,” his office said.

Tensions have risen between Iran and the US – Iraq’s two main allies – since last year when Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Tehran. Earlier this month, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo blamed Iranian-backed forces for attacks on bases in Iraq and threatened “a decisive US response”.

A spokesman for Kataeb Hezbollah denied that the group was behind the rocket attacks on US bases. Iran also denied involvement in attacks on US forces and condemned the airstrikes as “terrorism”. The US strikes also prompted a senior commander in the Iranian-backed Iraqi militia to warn of a “harsh response”. On Monday demonstrators in the city of Basra burnt an American flag in protest at the attacks.