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US threatens to shut embassy in Iraq if attacks continue on American compounds

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US army soldiers walk around at the K1 Air Base northwest of Kirkuk in northern Iraq on March 29, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

The United States has threatened to close its embassy in Baghdad if the Iraqi government does not move to stop attacks on American compounds, an Iraqi media report says. 

Iraqi24, a Baghdad news site, reported that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had warned Iraqi President Barham Salih that Washington was ready to shut its diplomatic mission in Baghdad and take action against anti-terror resistance groups.

“The decision to close the embassy in Baghdad is in President Trump’s hands and is ready. … If our forces withdraw and the embassy is closed in this way, we will liquidate all those who have been proven to have been involved in these attacks,” Pompeo said, naming anti-terror groups of Kata'ib Hezbollah and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, which are part of Iraq’s pro-government Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) or Hashd al-Sha'abi.

An unnamed source told American news website Al-Monitor that Salih had convened a meeting with leaders of political factions and told them that he had received a letter of warning from Pompeo.

Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV channel also quoted American and Iraqi political sources as saying that the threat of sanctions and limits on dollar transactions, including withholding aid through the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Iraq, had all been raised by the top US diplomat in his “very tough message” to Salih.

Former Iraqi finance and foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari confirmed the US warning in a post on his Twitter account.

Anti-terror groups vow to continue resistance

Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba Secretary General Akram al-Kaabi took to Twitter to encourage Iraqi resistance groups to maintain their resistance lines, saying that US threats would not frighten them.

Pompeo’s warnings are like the struggling of a suffocating person faced with the resistance which has managed to win back Iraq's sovereignty against the plunder, he said. 

Similarly, Abu Ali al-Askari, a security official for Kata'ib Hezbollah, warned that Iraqis would take Pompeo and US troops down a peg.

He tweeted that Pompeo’s threats would return to himself and fail to weaken the resistance’s will.

An opinion piece published by The Washington Post on Friday said the danger of Pompeo’s ultimatum is "the same one that has plagued the United States since it invaded Iraq in 2003." 

"Iraq has shown us repeatedly that American military power is overwhelming but can’t dictate political outcomes. Direct threats that become public, like Pompeo’s, rarely work out as intended,” the article read.

Recently, several rocket attacks have targeted American military bases in Iraq. A compilation by Iraq analyst Joel Wing says there have been 25 attacks on convoys carrying supplies to US or coalition facilities, on the Green Zone where the US Embassy is located, or on the Baghdad airport so far this month.

Iraqi-US relations have soured since January 3 when a Trump-authorized US drone struck a convoy at Baghdad airport, assassinating Iran’s top anti-terror commander General Qassem Soleimani and Hashd al-Sha’abi deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Just two days later, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously passed a bill mandating the expulsion of all foreign troops from Iraq.

Trump then threatened Iraq with sanctions and seizure of its oil money held in American banks if the country’s leaders followed through on their pledge to expel US forces.

Nevertheless, Iraqi resistance groups have promised to take up arms against US forces if Washington fails to comply with the parliamentary order.

More than 17 years after the US invasion of Iraq, Trump said last month the United States would eventually withdraw all troops from the conflict-ridden nation, though he did not provide a timetable.

"At some point, we obviously will be gone,” Trump said in his meeting with the Iraqi premier on August 20. "We look forward to the day when we don’t have to be there,” he added before the two men met privately.

There are currently about 5,000 troops in Iraq. Their assignments include alleged counter-terrorism operations and training Iraqi security forces.

Throughout their battle with foreign-backed terrorists, several Iraqi officials and military commanders came forth to reveal that US soldiers were in fact assisting the terrorists.

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