Pompeo to Iraq PM: US will take action in self-defense if attacked

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iraq’s government should defend the US-led coalition helping it fight Daesh. (AFP)
Updated 16 March 2020

Pompeo to Iraq PM: US will take action in self-defense if attacked

  • Pompeo: Iraq’s government should defend the US-led coalition helping it fight Daesh
  • ‘America will not tolerate attacks and threats to American lives’

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iraq’s prime minister that the United States would take measures in self-defense if attacked, according to a statement on Monday after a rocket attack on an Iraqi base that houses US troops helping fight Islamic State.
Pompeo spoke to Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Sunday, a day after three American troops and several Iraqi forces were wounded in the second major rocket attack in the past week on an Iraqi base north of Baghdad, US and Iraqi officials said, raising the stakes in an escalating cycle of attacks and reprisals.
He said Iraq’s government should defend the US-led coalition helping it fight Daesh, according to the statement from State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus.
“Secretary Pompeo underscored that the groups responsible for these attacks must be held accountable. Secretary Pompeo noted that America will not tolerate attacks and threats to American lives and will take additional action as necessary in self-defense,” it said.
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said 33 Katyusha rockets were launched near a section of the Taji base which houses US-led coalition troops. It said the military found seven rocket launchers and 24 unused rockets in the nearby Abu Izam area.
The Iraqi military said several Iraqi air defense servicemen were critically wounded. Two of the three wounded US troops are seriously injured and are being treated at a military hospital in Baghdad, the Pentagon said.
Longstanding antagonism between the United States and Iran has mostly played out on Iraqi soil in recent months.
Iranian-backed paramilitary groups have regularly rocketed and shelled bases in Iraq which host US forces and the area around the US Embassy in Baghdad.
The United States has in turn conducted several strikes inside Iraq, killing top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Kataib Hezbollah founder Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis in January.


I won’t quit: Lebanese PM defiant as his critics blast financial chaos

Updated 28 min 49 sec ago

I won’t quit: Lebanese PM defiant as his critics blast financial chaos

  • University president and UN human rights chief join condemnation of ‘incompetent’ government

BEIRUT: Beleaguered Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Saturday defied a barrage of criticism to declare that his government alone ruled Lebanon and it was determined to implement reforms to resolve the financial crisis.

Diab dismissed as “fake news” reports that he was on the verge of resignation, and said: “Lebanon will not be under anyone’s control as long as I am in power.”

The prime minister spoke after UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned that Lebanon was enduring “the worst economic crisis in its history” and was “fast spiraling out of control.” 

She urged Diab’s government to initiate urgent reforms and respond to “the people’s essential needs, such as food, electricity, health, and education.”

Diab also faced harsh criticism from the American University of Beirut (AUB), where he was vice president and a professor before becoming prime minister.

BACKGROUND

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet urged the Lebanese government to initiate urgent reforms and respond to ‘the people’s essential needs, such as food, health and education.’

AUB president Fadlo Khuri said Diab’s government was the worst in Lebanon’s history in its understanding of higher education.

“I have not seen any shred of competence in this government since its formation six months ago,” said.

“The government owes the AUB $150 million in medical bills,” Khuri said, and he urged Diab to “at least discuss with us a payment timeline.”

Lebanon’s financial plight is illustrated by its currency, the lira, which has lost 80 percent of its value. 

The black market  dollar exchange rate on Saturday was 7,500, compared with the official rate of 1,507.

Bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund were suspended in a dispute over government debt, but Diab insisted on Saturday: “We have turned the page … and started discussing the basic reforms required and the program that the IMF and Lebanon will agree upon, which will restore confidence and open the door to many projects.”