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US plans to build new base in western Iraq for Patriot missile system deployment: Source

This file picture shows a Patriot missile air defense system. (Photo by Anadolu news agency)

An Iraqi security source says the US military intends to construct a new military base in the country’s western province of al-Anbar for the deployment of Patriot missile systems.

“US forces intend to establish a new base in Umm Samij area north of al-Baghdadi district in the city of Hit in order to deploy a Patriot anti-missile system, and protect Ain al-Assad air base as well as other locations in western regions against possible attacks,” the unnamed source told Iraq’s Arabic-language al-Ahad news agency on Monday.

He noted, “Identification of a location for the deployment of the Patriot missile system is the first of its kind in Iraq. Such measures are indicative of US forces’ intention to stay in their bases in the western regions of Iraq for a long period of time.”

Back on January 23, an Iraqi legislator condemned US plans to install Patriot missile systems in the Arab country, saying such deployment violates Iraq’s sovereignty.

“The Iraqi parliament represents all political groups and currents. The (parliamentary) decision demanding the withdrawal of US military forces is supported by the public opinion. Therefore, the [American] troops’ attempt to deploy Patriot missile systems in their bases in order to beef up their combat capabilities is rejected and considered a violation of our sovereignty,” Karim Alawi, a member of the parliament's security and defense committee, told Arabic-language Baghdad Today news agency at the time.

He added, “The presence of US forces in Iraq is illegal. The recent parliamentary decision is clear. The ball is now in the government’s court to get those forces out. If it is not implemented, there will a reaction from all fronts, including filing a complaint with the United Nations and other Islamic organizations with the aim of removing American troops.”

The US is considering deploying the anti-missile system to purportedly protect American troops in Iraq.

The decision came after Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) fired a number of ballistic missiles at Ain al-Assad air base on January 8, in retaliation for a US airstrike authorized by President Donald Trump that assassinated Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC's Quds Force, along with the deputy head of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and their companions near Baghdad International Airport on January 3.

Trump initially said “no Americans were harmed” in the attack, but subsequent reports revealed that troops were injured, largely with concussions from the missile blasts.

On February 21, the Pentagon raised to 110 the number of US service members, who suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBI) following Iran’s retaliatory strike. It alleged that all of the wounded in the base attack were diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury and that 77 of them had already returned to duty.

The Pentagon further claimed that 35 others had been transported to Germany for further evaluation, 25 of whom had been sent on to the United States.

Two days after the US attack, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill demanding withdrawal of American forces from their country.

Later on January 9, former Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called on the United States to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad tasked with formulating a mechanism for the move.

According to a statement released by his office at the time, Abdul-Mahdi “requested that delegates be sent to Iraq to set the mechanisms to implement the parliament's decision for the secure withdrawal of (foreign) forces from Iraq” in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The 78-year-old politician said that Iraq rejects breach of its sovereignty, particularly the US military's violation of Iraqi airspace in the airstrike that assassinated General Soleimani, Muhandis and their companions.

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