US airstrikes are 'acts of aggression': Iraqi army spokesperson
US forces struck two Iraqi militia sites early Wednesday morning in retaliation for missile attacks on American troops in Western Iraq, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said.
The Pentagon blamed the Iran-linked militias in the Popular Mobilisation Forces for the attack, which is now integrated into the Iraqi armed forces.
"In a clear determination to harm security and stability in Iraq, the United States has resumed carrying out airstrikes against the locations of Iraqi military units from the army and the Popular Mobilisation Forces in the areas of Jurf Al-Nasr and Al-Qaim," Yahya Rasool, the spokesperson for the Iraqi Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces said in an official statement on Wednesday, 24 January.
"We will treat these operations as acts of aggression and take necessary actions to preserve the lives and dignity of Iraqis on their land that became safe and stable due to the sacrifices of our people," adds the statement.
"While positive steps have been taken to reshape the future relationship and missions of the Coalition members and advisors in Iraq, the recent actions are hindering this progress, undermining agreements and various sectors of joint security cooperation."
According to Iraqi sources, the US strikes targeted the Kataib Hezbollah, a group affiliated with the PMF.
They sites targeted were reportedly in the Jurf al-Sakhr area, south of Baghdad, as well as Al-Qaim on the Syrian border, killing two people and wounding two others.
"This unacceptable act undermines years of cooperation, blatantly violates Iraq's sovereignty, and contributes to an irresponsible escalation. It occurs at a time when the region is already grappling with the danger of expanding conflict, the repercussions of the aggression on Gaza, and the consequences of the immoral war of extermination faced by the Palestinian people," read another part of the statement.
"We see the United States sliding into condemnable and unjustified aggressive actions against Iraqi territory and national sovereignty."
The Iraqi army spokesperson called on the international community "to fulfil its responsibility in supporting peace and security, preventing all violations threatening Iraq's stability and sovereignty".
Qasim al-Araji, Iraq's National Security Advisor, considered the US airstrikes as a "blatant violation of Iraqi sovereignty that does not contribute to de-escalation".
Footage claimed to be from U.S. Airstrikes earlier tonight on Iranian-Backed Forces within the Town of Jurf al-Sakhar to the South of Baghdad in Central Iraq. pic.twitter.com/NnSp6AXvQT— OSINTdefender (@sentdefender) January 23, 2024
In a post on the X platform, Al-Araji called on the US to de-escalate Israeli ongoing aggression on the people of Gaza instead of targeting and bombing the headquarters of an "Iraqi national institution".
The presidency of Iraq's parliament also harshly rebuked the US attacks and described them as a "continued blatant violation of Iraqi sovereignty and the lack of respect for international and bilateral agreements by the United States".
The parliament also called on the Iraqi government to accelerate the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country.
"Any delay in implementing this decision would be a clear violation of legislation and the will of the people… Iraqi sovereignty and the blood of its people are red lines that cannot be crossed," the statement said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani on 18 January repeated his call for the US-led global coalition against the Islamic State group to leave Iraq amid regional tensions over Israel's deadly war in Gaza. The Iraqi parliament has also backed the expulsion of US troops.
The US has about 2,500 soldiers in Iraq and nearly 900 in Syria supporting the anti-IS coalition.
The US-led coalition in Iraq has said it halted all combat missions in Iraq in 2021 and is stationed at Iraqi military bases purely in an advisory and training capacity. PM Sudani said that coalition forces were no longer needed now IS has been defeated.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iranian-backed militias, has launched strikes against bases housing US forces in Iraq and Syria since Israel launched a brutal war on Gaza last October.
The group claims that the strikes are in retaliation for Washington's support for Israel during its war on Gaza and that its objective is to compel the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
Iraqi militias and political parties aligned with Tehran have said that Baghdad should set out a clear timetable for the withdrawal of all US-led coalition troops from Iraq.
In 2020, Iraq's parliament voted for the expulsion of all foreign troops from the country. The step was prompted by the US assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and a senior Iraqi militant commander.
Soleimani, the former head of Iran's overseas Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis,deputy chief of the PMF were killed in a US airstrike at Baghdad's International Airport on 3 January 2020