The White House has walked back a false claim it made about the US notifying the Iraq government before launching a series of airstrikes across eastern Syria and western Iraq on Friday.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby claimed on Friday that the US did inform the Iraqi government, the US’s supposed ally in the country. But Iraq denied the claim, and another NSC spokesperson admitted Kirby’s claim was false.
“For operational security, we did not provide any kind of official pre-notification with specific details on these strikes,” an NSC spokesperson told The Intercept.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani declared three days of mourning for those killed by the US airstrikes, which killed members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a militia coalition that’s part of the Iraqi security forces. The Iraqi government said 16 were killed, including civilians, while the PMF said 16 of its members were killed.
The White House ordered the strikes following a January 28 drone attack in Jordan that killed three US troops, which the US blamed on the Islamic Resistance of Iraq, a shadowy umbrella group of Shia militias. US bases in Iraq and Syria have come under attack over 160 times since October in response to President Biden’s support for the Israeli slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza.
Al-Sudani has been calling for an end to the US presence, and the US and Iraq started talks on the issue at the end of January. But for now, the US appears determined to stay as it’s escalated the situation by launching the bombing campaign. On Sunday night, six US Kurdish allies were killed in a drone attack on a US base in US-occupied eastern Syria.
In January 2020, Iraq’s parliament voted unanimously to expel US troops in the wake of the US drone strike that killed Iranian Quds Force Gen. Qasem Soleimani and PMF leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. But the US refused to leave and has significant economic leverage over Iraq, making it difficult for an Iraqi prime minister to kick US troops out.