Iraq militia claims halt to attacks on US forces

Iraq militia claims halt to attacks on US forces
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A handout picture received from the US embassy in Iraq, shows smoke billowing from a sentry box at an entrance of the embassy in the capital Baghdad, Dec. 31, 2019. (AFP/Getty Images)
Iraq militia claims halt to attacks on US forces
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Mohammed Mohi, spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah paramilitary group attends an interview with Reuters in Baghdad, Iraq Oct. 11, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 11 October 2020

Iraq militia claims halt to attacks on US forces

Iraq militia claims halt to attacks on US forces
  • The factions have presented a conditional cease-fire
  • US officials blame Kataib Hezbollah for dozens of rocket attacks against US installations in Iraq

BAGHDAD: An array of Iran-backed Iraqi militia groups have suspended rocket attacks on US forces on condition that Iraq’s government present a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops, one of the groups said on Sunday.
A spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah, one of the most powerful Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq, said the groups were presenting no set deadline, but that if US troops “insisted on staying” they would unleash much more violent attacks.
Washington, which is slowly reducing its 5,000 troops in Iraq, threatened last month to shut its embassy unless the Iraqi government reins in Iran-aligned militias that have attacked US interests with rockets and roadside bombs.
The US warning caused alarm in Iraq, where it was seen as a step toward air strikes, potentially turning Iraq into a battleground in a proxy war between the United States and Iran. A broad array of politicians called on the militia to stop provoking the Americans.
“The factions have presented a conditional cease-fire,” Kataib Hezbollah spokesman Mohammed Mohi told Reuters. “It includes all factions of the (anti-US) resistance, including those who have been targeting US forces.”
On Saturday, militia groups calling themselves the “Iraqi Resistance Coordination Commission” published a statement suggesting they would suspend attacks in return for a clear plan for US troops to leave. Mohi did not specify which groups had drafted the statement.
He said the Iraqi government must implement a parliamentary resolution in January calling for foreign troops to withdraw.
ROADSIDE BLAST
Iraq is one of the few countries with close ties to both the United States and Iran, both of which provided military support to help defeat Daesh fighters, who were beaten back in a three-year war after seizing a third of Iraq in 2014.
Iraqis have long feared their country could become a proxy battleground, especially since Washington killed Tehran’s military mastermind Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike at Baghdad airport in January.
Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, an Iraqi leader of pro-Iran militias, was also killed. Factions that Soleimani and Muhandis commanded, including Kataib Hezbollah, swore to avenge them.
But pro-Iran militias have faced a popular backlash from Iraqis who accuse them of putting the country’s security at risk by attacking the Americans.
Mohi said there was no deadline for the government to expel foreign troops, but “if America insists on staying and doesn’t respect the parliament’s decision then the factions will use all the weapons at their disposal.”
He said rockets fired at US forces and diplomatic compounds were a message, and worse attacks could follow.
US officials blame Kataib Hezbollah for dozens of rocket attacks against US installations in Iraq.
Kataib Hezbollah denies involvement, and some attacks have been claimed by smaller, little-known militias, though Iraqi officials believe these may be fronts for bigger groups.
A roadside blast hit a convoy in southern Iraq on Sunday delivering equipment to the US-led military coalition in the country, damaging a tire but causing no casualties, the military said. There was no claim of responsibility.


Iran plans to install more advanced atomic centrifuges underground: IAEA

The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency said on December 2, 2020 Iran had begun operating advanced centrifuges at an underground section of its primary nuclear enrichment facility at Natanz. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 39 min 29 sec ago

Iran plans to install more advanced atomic centrifuges underground: IAEA

The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency said on December 2, 2020 Iran had begun operating advanced centrifuges at an underground section of its primary nuclear enrichment facility at Natanz. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Iran’s nuclear deal with major powers says Tehran can only use first-generation IR-1 centrifuges, which are less efficient

VIENNA: Iran has told the UN nuclear watchdog it plans to install three more cascades, or clusters, of advanced IR-2m centrifuges at its underground uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, the agency told member states on Friday in a report obtained by Reuters.

“Iran informed the Agency that the operator of the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz ‘intends to start installation of three cascades of IR-2m centrifuge machines’ at FEP,” the agency wrote, adding that the three cascades were in addition to one of IR-2m machines already used for enrichment there.

Iran’s nuclear deal with major powers says Tehran can only use first-generation IR-1 centrifuges, which are less efficient, at the underground plant and that those are the only machines Iran can accumulate enriched uranium with.