Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 2 June 2020

Iraqi politicians blame government inaction for attacks on military base

An Iraqi official says the US and Iran have been given the all-clear to act as they please in Iraq

An Iraqi army soldier stands guard near a US-made Iraqi Air Force F-16 fighter jet at Balad airbase. AP
An Iraqi army soldier stands guard near a US-made Iraqi Air Force F-16 fighter jet at Balad airbase. AP

Politicians in Baghdad held the government responsible on Monday for an attack on an Iraqi airbase that hosts US troops amid rising tension between Washington and Tehran on Iraqi soil.

Military officials said at least eight Katyusha-type rockets landed on Al Balad airbase, which is 80 kilometres north of Baghdad.

The rockets injured two Iraqi officers and two airmen.

Some American troops are believed to have left military bases around Iraq amid security concerns in the past two weeks.

Iraqis will suffer from the latest attack, said Sarkwat Shamsi, an Iraqi member of parliament.

“Any rocket attack on foreign embassies in Iraq is an attack on Iraqi interests because these attacks weaken Iraq and its economy. So, people will suffer,” he said.

“That is why we want Iraqi security forces to be responsible to protect Iraqi interests and stop uncontrolled armed groups,” he said.

He also said that if Iraq failed to protect its people, the US and other states would retaliate unilaterally.

US-Iranian tensions escalated after the killing of Iranian General Qassem Suleimani near Baghdad airport earlier this month.

He was killed by a US drone strike along with the Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis.

Their deaths have triggered concern that Iraq could be engulfed in a major war between Washington and Tehran.

An Iraqi official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Iraqi government must take the appropriate to ensure Baghdad was not “dragged into a proxy war”.

“It is an attack on Iraq’s sovereignty and power. Iran is using Iraq as a base to avenge the US killing of General Qassem Suleimani,” the official said.

Iran and its supporters in Baghdad never anticipated the attack on General Suleimani, he said.

“Unfortunately, the leadership in Baghdad has given the all-clear for Tehran and Washington to do as they please in the country,” he said.

Iraq's Human Rights Commission condemned the strike and urged the government to take immediate action to end the hostilities.

The attacks on Al Balad airbase were unacceptable as it contained Iraqi and foreign military units hosted officially in Iraq," Ali Al Bayati, a member of the commission, said.

"The government is responsible to hold those accountable and to put an end to these anti-state terrorist acts," he said.

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the latest attack on Iraqi soil.

“These continued violations of Iraq’s sovereignty by groups not loyal to the Iraqi government must end,” he said on Twitter.

“I pray for the speedy recovery of the injured and call on the government of Iraq to hold those responsible for this attack on the Iraqi people.”

Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility, the US has previously blamed such attacks on Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq.

The development comes as at least 10 people were injured when Iraqi security forces clashed with anti-government protesters in the holy city of Karbala late on Sunday.

Protesters took to the streets to voice their frustration at US and Iranian interference in Iraq’s internal affairs, as well as corruption and a lack of basic services.

Updated: January 13, 2020 05:51 PM

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