A member of the Iraqi parliament’s security and defence committee has condemned the deployment of Patriot missile defence systems at bases hosting US forces in the country, saying they are a breach of Iraq’s sovereignty.
“The decision about the withdrawal of foreign forces, including US troops, is not reversible as it represents the Iraqi nation’s will to respond to Washington’s crimes in Iraq, its flagrant intervention in the country’s domestic affairs in addition to its repeated targeting of Hashd Al-Sha’abi forces [Popular Mobilisation Forces] and its leaders,” Karim Alawi told Al-Maalomah news agency in an interview yesterday.
“According to the available information, the US-built Patriot missile was installed in three military bases where American forces are stationed. This runs counter to the sovereignty of Iraq,” he explained.
One of the US bases which received the Patriot system was the Ain Al-Assad airbase located in the western Anbar province and was targeted by retaliatory missile strikes from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in response to the assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani at the beginning of the year, which also killed a top commander in the PMF, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis.
On 5 January, the Iraqi parliament voted in favour of a resolution calling on foreign forces to withdraw from the country. Whilst there has been some reduction in troop presence in recent days, there has also been redeployments from smaller bases. Kataib Hezbollah which forms part of the PMF set a 15 March deadline on US troops to withdraw from Iraq and there has been an increase in rocket attacks against US targets. Last month two Americans and a British Army medic were killed in a rocket attack outside Baghdad, leading to US airstrikes against five weapon storage sites linked to the group. However, a new resistance faction – known as Usbat Al-Tha’ireen (League of Revolutionaries) – claimed responsibility and has vowed further attacks against US forces.
Group claimed responsibility for March 11 rocket attack on Taji Camp which killed 3 coalition forces pic.twitter.com/4M0AbZyOFt
— Arwa Ibrahim (@arwaib) April 3, 2020
Yesterday they released drone footage which allegedly showed they were able to hover over the US embassy in Baghdad; a precursor to being able to carry out strikes against it.
This comes amid heightened tensions between the US and the resistance factions which are considered part of the Iraqi armed forces, some of whom have close ties to Iran. US President Trump hinted on Wednesday that Iran may be planning sneak attacks against US forces and vowed there would be a strong retaliation. Last week the New York Times reported that the Pentagon had ordered a secret directive, which called on US military commanders to prepare for military action against Kataib Hezbollah.
Iran has responded to Trump’s statements with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif taking to Twitter cautioning people not to be misled again by “warmongers”, adding that Iran has friends not proxies. “Iran starts no wars, but teaches lessons to those who do”.