Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed “Iran-backed” groups in Iraq for a Sunday rocket attack on the US embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone.
“Iran-backed militias once again flagrantly and recklessly attacked in Baghdad, wounding Iraqi civilians,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter. No deaths were reported in Sunday’s attack, but some reports said Iraqis were injured by the barrage of rockets.
Iran denied involvement in the attack. “Attacking diplomatic and residential premises is not acceptable,” Saeed Khatibzadeh, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, said.
Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi Shia group that is seen as close to Iran, also denied responsibility for the attack. The group issued a statement on the incident, calling it “uncontrolled” and “a threat to civilian lives.”
In recent months, Iran has urged its allies in Iraq not to provoke the US, hoping to avoid a military conflict before President Trump leaves office. But some groups rejected Iran’s call, including the Shia militia Asaib al-Ahl Haq.
In November, after an Iranian general delivered a message to the militias in Iraq, warning them against attacking the US, the leader of Asaib al-Ahl Haq responded sharply. “The Americans occupy our country, not yours. We will not listen to you anymore because our motives are 100 percent nationalist,” Qais al-Khazali, the group’s leader, said in a TV interview.
The US is warning that Iran could seek revenge for Gen. Qasem Soleimani on or near the anniversary of his death, which is January 3rd. Soleimani was killed alongside Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, the leader of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Force (PMF), a group of mostly Shia Iraqi state-sponsored militias formed in 2014 to fight ISIS.
Regardless of the differences in Shia militias in Iraq, any violence against US forces in the country between now and January 20th will be almost certainly blamed on Iran.