Iraq condemns U.S. air strikes, warns of consequences

KERBALA, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraq condemned overnight U.S. air strikes on Friday, with its military saying they had killed six people and describing them as a violation of sovereignty and a targeted aggression against the nation's regular armed forces

Reuters March 14, 2020 00:11:24 IST
Iraq condemns U.S. air strikes, warns of consequences

Iraq condemns US air strikes warns of consequences

KERBALA, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraq condemned overnight U.S. air strikes on Friday, with its military saying they had killed six people and describing them as a violation of sovereignty and a targeted aggression against the nation's regular armed forces.

President Barham Salih said repeated such violations could cause Iraq to unravel into a failed state and revive the Islamic State militant group.

The military warned the air strikes would have consequences while the foreign ministry said it summoned the U.S. and British ambassadors.

The United States said it carried out the series of strikes on Thursday against an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq that it blamed for a rocket attack a day earlier which killed two American soldiers and a British soldier.

Long-standing antagonism between the United States and Iran have mostly played out on Iraqi soil in recent months.

"The pretext that this attack came as a response to the aggression that targeted the Taji base is a false pretext; one that leads to escalation and does not provide a solution," Iraq's Joint Operations Command said in a statement.

It said that as well as the six killed, 12 people had been wounded in the U.S. air strikes, and that infrastructure, weapons and equipment at targeted military sites were destroyed.

The Pentagon said the strikes targeted five weapons stores used by Kataib Hezbollah militia, including facilities housing arms used in past attacks on U.S.-led coalition troops.

Official Iraqi casualty figures showed no paramilitary fighters had been killed. The military said three soldiers, two policemen and one civilian were killed, according to an initial toll, and that four soldiers, two policemen, a civilian, and five militiamen were injured.

The civilians killed and wounded were construction workers at an airport building site in the Shi'ite Muslim holy city of Kerbala, Iraqi religious authorities said.

PROXY WAR

Around 5,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, most in an advisory capacity, as part of a wider international coalition formed to help Iraq drive back and defeat Islamic State militants.

But the Iraqi military said the new U.S. air attack went against "any partnership" under the coalition. "It will have consequences that subject everyone to the most serious dangers."

Iran's foreign ministry said on Friday that the "presence and behaviour" of U.S. and allied forces in Iraq was to blame for attacks against them.

Iranian-backed paramilitary groups have regularly rocketed and shelled bases in Iraq that host U.S. forces and the area around the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

For its part, the United States has conducted several strikes inside Iraq, killing top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Kataib Hezbollah founder Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in January.

Many Iraqis say it is they who stand to suffer most from U.S.-Iranian tensions and some, including acting Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, have called for U.S. troops to withdraw.

Parliament passed a resolution calling for all foreign troops to leave after Soleimani was killed. The recent air strikes could see those calls renewed.

Iraq has suffered decades of war, sanctions and sectarian conflict, including the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.

Iraq's security problems will be solved by supporting its government, not turning it into a battlefield for a proxy war, Salih said, warning that Islamic State might seize on any chaos.

"The repeated violations the state is being subjected to are a dangerous and deliberate weakening of its abilities especially at a time when Iraq faces unprecedented challenges on political, economic, financial, security, and health fronts," he said.

Iraq is grappling with anti-government unrest in which almost 500 people have been killed since Oct. 1.

It also faces an unprecedented power vacuum after Abdul Mahdi stood down from most of his duties and his designated successor withdrew his candidacy.

Oil sales make up over 90% of state revenues and Iraq now faces a financial crisis as crude prices have crashed amidst market panic over the spread of coronavirus .

Iraq has recorded 83 coronavirus cases and eight deaths, and is trying to stem the spread of the respiratory illness from Iran, which has suffered one of the world's deadliest outbreaks.

(Reporting Ahmed Saeed; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Mark Heinrich)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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