Rocket targeting US embassy in Baghdad intercepted while Iraq condemns Turkish operations against state

A general view shows the US embassy across the Tigris river in Iraq's capital Baghdad on January 3, 2020. The US embassy in Baghdad urged American citizens in Iraq to "depart immediately", for fear of fallout from a US strike that killed top Iranian and Iraqi commanders. (File/AFP)
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Updated 05 July 2020

Rocket targeting US embassy in Baghdad intercepted while Iraq condemns Turkish operations against state

  • There had been similar attacks on the Green Zone against American facilities in Iraq since October
  • Turkey’s operations in Kurdistan and other disputed territories in mid-June were aimed at removing suspected Kurdistan Workers Party

DUBAI: A rocket targeting the US embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone was intercepted by US Air defense systems with no claims of responsibility as of Sunday morning, Al-Arabiya News channel reported.
“The missile that was intercepted by the American embassy in Baghdad fell near a number of sit-in protesters close to the Green Zone area. It landed close to the bridge leading to the Green Zone itself,” Al Arabiya's correspondent in Baghdad Majid Hamid confirmed.
There had been similar attacks on the Green Zone against American facilities in Iraq since October that the US blamed on Iran-backed factions among Iraq’s security forces.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s military operations in northern Iraq were condemned by Ahmed Mulla Talal, the spokesperson for Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, local daily The Baghdad Post reported.
“We strongly reject and condemn these actions that harm the close, long-standing relations between the two friendly nations,"  Talal said in a statement.
Turkey’s operations in Kurdistan and other disputed territories in mid-June were aimed at removing suspected Kurdistan Workers Party targets from the area. The airstrikes launched by Ankara have killed so far five civilians.
Talal accused Turkey for violating Iraqi sovereignty and described the country’s offensive as “detrimental” to “regional peace.”
The spokesperson added that his country had sent two letters to Turkey's ambassador to Iraq, and says Baghdad will have to refer to “international law” to stop Turkey.
“We hold the Turkish side responsible for the legal and moral responsibility for all the human and material losses that occur,” he said.


US contractor told Lebanese port official of chemicals risk

Updated 12 August 2020

US contractor told Lebanese port official of chemicals risk

  • Concerns about the ammonium nitrate were known within the Lebanese government before the deadly blast
  • The thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate had been stored in the warehouse for more than six years

WASHINGTON: About four years before the Beirut port explosion that killed dozens of people and injured thousands, a US government contractor expressed concern to a Lebanese port official about unsafe storage there of the volatile chemicals that fueled last week’s devastating blast, American officials said Tuesday.
There is no indication the contractor communicated his concerns to anyone in the US government.
His assessment was noted briefly in a four-page State Department cable first reported by The New York Times.
The cable, labeled sensitive but unclassified, dealt largely with the Lebanese responses to the blast and the origins and disposition of the ammonium nitrate, which ignited to create an enormous explosion. But it also noted that after the Aug. 4 explosion, a person who had advised the Lebanese navy under a US Army contract from 2013 to 2016 told the State Department that he had “conducted a port facility inspection on security measures during which he reported to port officials on the unsafe storage of ammonium nitrate.”
Concerns about the ammonium nitrate were known within the Lebanese government before the deadly blast, officials said.
The contractor, who was not identified by name and is now a State Department employee based in Ukraine, was in Lebanon to provide instruction to members of the Lebanese navy. While there, he made a brief, impromptu inspection of physical security at the facility in 2015 or 2016 at the request of a port official, US officials said. The contractor was not identified.
The contractor, who has a background in port and maritime security, noted weaknesses in security camera coverage and other aspects of port management but was not assessing safety issues, according to the US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of a planned public statement.
While inside the warehouse where ammonium nitrate was stored, the contractor saw problems such as poor ventilation and inadequate physical security, which he noted to the port official accompanying him, the officials said. It is unclear whether the port official reported this concern to his superiors.
The thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate had been stored in the warehouse for more than six years, apparently with the knowledge of top political and security officials. The catastrophic explosion one week ago Tuesday killed at least 171 peoples and plunged Lebanon into a deeper political crisis.
The contractor was working for the US Army’s Security Assistance Training Management Organization, headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He provided instruction to members of the Lebanese armed forces in naval vessel traffic systems and small boat operations. His class was visiting the Beirut port as part of that instruction program when the port official asked him for the inspection, which US officials said lasted about 45 minutes.
The United States has a close security relationship with Lebanon. According to the State Department, the US government has provided Lebanon with more than $1.7 billion in security assistance since 2006. The assistance is designed to support the Lebanese armed forces’ ability to secure the country’s borders, counter internal threats, and defend national territory.
Last September a US Navy ship, the guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage, visited Beirut. It was the first time in 36 years an American warship had made a port visit there, according to the US military at the time.