Pompeo warns Iran after proxy attacks in Iraq

Pompeo and the administration has warned Iran in the past about attacks

Secretary Mike Pompeo in Jerusalem  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Secretary Mike Pompeo in Jerusalem
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
US Secretary of State slammed Iranian-backed militias in Iraq for an attack near Baghdad International Airport that wounded five Iraqi soldiers. “To Iran’s leaders, the US will respond decisively if Iran or its proxies harm US personnel or our Iraqi partners.” Pompeo also noted that Iran’s proxies in Iraq have conducted several attacks against bases in Iraq where US forces are located.

This comes after six months of tensions in Iraq in which Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias have been accused of carry out more than ten attacks against bases where US forces are present. The attacks have usually involved rocket and mortar fire that has rarely harmed anyone but comes close to bases where US forces and Iraqi forces are located. This includes Camp Taji, Ayn al-Asad base and Q-West and Balad air bases. These are key infrastructure and sites for US forces and the wider anti-ISIS Coalition. US Vice-President Mike Pence and US President Donald Trump have also spoken at Asad base to US troops.
The attacks have increased in recent months and included numerous katyusha-style rockets. Pompeo said the US would continue to work “hand-in-hand with our Iraqi partners” on Friday. “We must also use this opportunity to remind Iran’s leaders that any attacks by them or their proxies of any identity that harm Americans, our allies or our interests will be answered with a decisive US response,” Pompeo said according to CNN.

Pompeo and the administration has warned Iran in the past about attacks. Iran has attacked oil tankers in May and June, downed a US drone in June and attacked Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil facility in September. It has also sought to send ballistic missiles to Iraq, according to reports, and built bases in Syria. The US now appears to be expanding its willingness to respond if Iraqi forces are targeted. The warning involves Iranian “proxies” which usually means Iranian-backed militias in Iraq. These are members of the Popular Mobilization Units, an official paramilitary unit of the security forces. They include militias that the US has already sanctioned as terrorists for beng linked to Iran’s IRGC. In addition the US recently sanctioned Qais Khazali, leader of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, one of the militias in the PMU. Khazali has threatened revenge against the US and others. Hadi al-Amiri and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, both leaders of the PMU with their own militias, have also threatened to hold the US responsible for any attacks against the PMU in Iraq. The US has blamed Iran and these militias for attacks in the past, including rockets fired at the Basra US consulate in 2018 and rockets fired near the US embassy in Baghdad in May.