America’s embassy in Iraq was hit by mortar fire on Sunday, injuring one. Initial reports indicated that rockets were used, but U.S. Central Command General Kenneth McKenzie clarified Monday that it was mortar fire instead.
The United States suggested that Iran or its proxies were behind the threat, just the latest against Americans in Iraq amid high tensions with Iran, The Hill reported. Iraq’s government condemned the attack.
“The security situation remains tense and Iranian-backed armed groups remain a threat. So, we remain vigilant,” a State Department spokesperson said.
Strike on U.S. embassy in Iraq hurts one
The attack struck a cafeteria at the embassy compound, which is located in the important Green Zone in Baghdad that houses embassies and government institutions.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed the attack on “Iran’s armed groups” and telephoned Iraq in a rage, ABC reported, although the State Department did not officially attribute the strike to Iran.
According to reports, there was at least one minor injury in the unusual direct hit on the embassy. Iraq’s prime minister condemned the violence and said Iraq would “[protect] all diplomatic missions,” while the country’s former deputy prime minister, Hoshyar Zebari, more directly fingered the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), Fox reported.
“The compound of #USEmbassy in #Baghdad received a direct rockets hit by unruly militia. The Embassy restaurant or canteen was damaged and burned. This is a very dangerous game by #PMF uncontrolled factions to galvanize the tense situation. It must stop,” Zebari tweeted.
Attacks in the Green Zone are up amid a mix of protests — some against Iran, some against America — as tensions between America and Iran spill over into Iraq and play into unrest there. Iranian proxies attacked America’s embassy in Baghdad on December 31 after an American strike on Iranian proxies who had killed an American contractor.
Tensions high in region
The New Year’s embassy attack came days before a U.S. strike in Baghdad killed Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani. Iran vowed retaliation for Soleimani’s death but responded with non-fatal missile attacks on American bases in Iraq that many said were meant to miss their targets.
After initial reports that nobody was hurt in the attacks, it was later reported that 34 Americans suffered brain injuries. The Soleimani strike also spurred Iraq to demand that American troops leave the country, but the U.S. has not yet followed through on a withdrawal.
Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces have violently repressed demonstrations against Iraq’s government over corruption and Iranian influence that have been going on since October. Several Iraqis have been killed in protests since this past weekend alone.
Responding to Sunday’s attack, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “I am closely monitoring reports of a rocket attack targeting the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Violent acts against our diplomatic facilities are simply unacceptable. We must ensure the safety of American diplomats, troops and other Americans in Iraq.”