Washington says Baghdad failed to ‘protect’ Americans

Washington says Baghdad failed to ‘protect’ Americans
Onlookers inspect the destruction of militia site after the airstrike in Iraq. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 31 December 2019
Follow

Washington says Baghdad failed to ‘protect’ Americans

Washington says Baghdad failed to ‘protect’ Americans
  • Multiple attacks have in recent weeks targeted Iraq bases where Americans are present

WASHINGTON: Washington has accused Iraqi authorities of having failed to “protect” US interests, the day after deadly American airstrikes against a pro-Iran group sparked anger.

At least 25 fighters were killed in Sunday night’s attacks, which were in retaliation for the death last week of a US civilian contractor.

“We have warned the Iraqi government many times, and we’ve shared information with them to try to work with them to carry out their responsibility to protect us as their invited guests,” a senior US State Department official told reporters in Washington.

He noted that the US military and diplomats are in the country “upon the invitation of the Iraqi government.”

“So it’s their responsibility and duty to protect us. And they have not taken the appropriate steps to do so,” he said.

Multiple attacks have in recent weeks targeted Iraq bases where Americans are present. The US has blamed the attacks on pro-Iran factions.

On Sunday, the US-led air strikes targeted several bases belonging to the Hezbollah Brigades, one of the most radical factions of Hashd Al-Shaabi, a Tehran-backed Iraqi paramilitary coalition.

The strikes “killed 25 and wounded 51,” according to the Hashed, which holds major sway in Iraq.

The attack was in retaliation for the death Friday of a US civilian contractor in Kirkuk in a Hezbollah Brigades rocket attack.

Iraq’s government denounced Sunday’s strikes and warned they could affect ties with Washington.

The attacks “force Iraq to review its relations and its security, political and legal framework to protect its sovereignty,” the government said in a statement.

The warning came as demonstrators torched US flags in the southern cities of Basra and Najaf, and in Kirkuk north of Baghdad, while lawmakers called for US troops to be booted out of Iraq.

“We have frequent and robust exchanges with the Iraqi government about these threats,” the State Department official said Monday. 

“We absolutely told them that we were going to be taking action against” Friday’s attack.

US Assistant Secretary of State David Schenker said the Sunday strikes on Hezbollah Brigades bases were a message to Iran after months of “restraint” by the administration of President Donald Trump.

“We thought it important to hit a significant target set to send a very clear message to them about how serious we take American lives,” Schenker told reporters.

“This was a response that was serious, but was, I think in many ways, proportionate,” he said.

“We don’t want an escalation here, we want a de-escalation.”