US-Iraq Ties at Stake After Deadly US Airstrikes

Iraq says strikes a 'sinful violation' of sovereignty

A flurry of US airstrikes on Sunday morning targeting Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) forces is quickly fueling fallout in US-Iraqi relations, as the Iraqi government warns that such unilateral attacks are unacceptable.

Iraqi officials issued a statement cautioning that the attack would have dangerous consequences, and that it has forced the Iraqi government to “review” its relations with the US. Protesters were burning US flags in Baghdad.

There were many MPs already calling for Iraq to review its ties to the US, and potentially end the open-ended US military deployment. The US attack on Iraqi government paramilitary forces has only added to this, with officials calling it a “sinful violation” of Iraqi sovereignty.

Though US officials have routinely presented Ketaib Hezbollah and other PMU militias as “Iranian forces,” there was no real mystery that they are part of the Iraqi government’s formal security forces. The Trump Administration has at times spoken ill of the PMU, but must also have known that attacking them on Iraqi soil would be a bridge too far for Iraq’s government.

On Monday, the State Department followed up military action by criticizing the Iraqi government for failing to protect US troops in Iraqi territory, saying Iraq had “shown its true colors” in failing to denounce Ketaib Hezbollah but still condemning the US attacks.

Far from a question of Iraq simply reviewing US ties after the attack, the State Department’s comments suggest that the two sides are on the verge of open hostilities. PMU leader Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, again a high-ranking Iraqi government official, is threatening a retaliatory response against the US. The US is threatening more attacks if there is any retaliation.

This is shaping up to be a very dangerous situation, where US-Iraq ties may collapse outright in very short order. What this means for 5,000 US troops already in Iraq, and a Pentagon that had no intention of ever withdrawing them, remains to be seen.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.