ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq's president and parliament speaker on Tuesday condemned attempts by supporters and members of Iranian-backed militias to breach the US embassy in the capital of Baghdad following American airstrikes that killed and wounded dozens of the militias' fighters.
“Attempting to storm the American embassy in Baghdad is a violation of the international agreements by which the Iraqi government is bound,” President Barham Salih said in a statement. He added that targeting diplomatic offices “is a blow to Iraq’s interests and international reputation as a sovereign state that respects its obligations.”
Salih affirmed, “We call on protesters to withdraw from the embassy and its approaches and not escalate the situation.”
Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi issued a similar statement, writing on his Twitter page that “attempting to storm the American embassy… is unacceptable behavior that damages the interests of Iraq and hurts the image of our people.”
Halbousi called on the government to continue to protect mission offices.
The prime minister of the caretaker government, Adil Abdul Mahdi, earlier in the day vowed that there would be the “most severe” punishments for anyone who attacks the US Embassy.
In telephone calls with US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Salih and Abdul Mahdi have reportedly given assurances that American personnel and property would be protected, according to Reuters.
Trump has claimed Iran had orchestrated the storming of the embassy but Tehran has denied this.
The incident comes two days after the US launched five strikes on Sunday against facilities belonging to the Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) group, which is part of the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militias, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). The attacks reportedly killed at least 25 fighters and wounded 55 others.
The operation came in response to an attack on an Iraqi military base outside Kirkuk where American and Iraqi troops are stationed, US officials said, accusing KH of being responsible. PMF militias have carried out rocket attacks with increasing regularity in recent months as tensions between Washington and Tehran continue to simmer.
The Iraqi government has announced a three-day mourning period starting on New Years’ Eve for the militiamen killed in the airstrikes.
The US attacks led to a renewal of calls by major Iraqi politicians to expel American troops—which are currently numbered at nearly 5,000—from Iraq. PMF commanders have said that they would retaliate to the killings of their members.
Editing by John J. Catherine