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Senior Official Says Iran Threat to US Troops in Iraq Remains 'Significant'

Senior Official Says Iran Threat to US Troops in Iraq Remains 'Significant'

Friday, 10 April, 2020 - 05:00
US army soldiers stand on duty at the K1 airbase northwest of Kirkuk in northern Iraq last month. (AFP/File)
Asharq Al-Awsat

US State Department’s top diplomat for the Middle East warned on Thursday that Iranian-backed militia pose a “significant” threat to US forces in Iraq.

David Schenker, assistant secretary of Near Eastern Affairs, did not elaborate about the threat, but told reporters in a teleconference: “It continues to be significant.”

This comes a week after US President Donald Trump warned of an attack by Iran or its proxies.

Iran or its proxies planned a sneak attack on US targets in Iraq, said Trump, warning they would pay a “very heavy price” but gave no details.

On Monday, three Katyusha rockets landed near a district in southern Iraq that houses workers for foreign oil companies, including US oil service company Halliburton.

No casualties or damage were reported.

Iran-backed paramilitary groups have regularly been shelling bases in Iraq that host US forces, and the area around the US embassy in Baghdad, Reuters reported.

Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States proposed a ‘Strategic Dialogue’ with Iraq to be held in June, a bid to restore strained bilateral ties.

Schenker, who in March said Washington was “enormously disappointed” by Iraq’s performance in protecting US-led coalition forces, repeated Washington’s concerns.

“It is on the Iraqis - if they value that relationship - to take certain steps and that includes providing protection to the coalition forces who are in Iraq, if they want those forces to remain,” Schenker said.

On Thursday, Iraq’s president named intelligence chief Mustafa al-Kadhimi as prime minister-designate.

Schenker said of Kadhimi: “If Kadhimi is an Iraqi nationalist, dedicated to pursuing a sovereign Iraq, if he is committed to fighting corruption, this would be great for Iraq, and we think it would be great for our bilateral relationship.”

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