US warns will respond 'decisively' to 'Iran-backed attacks' in Iraq

US warns will respond 'decisively' to 'Iran-backed attacks' in Iraq
Washington threatened Iran with strong and decisive action if it did not stop its proxy militias in Iraq from carrying out attacks against US facilities amid recent protest turmoil
2 min read
12 September, 2018
Unrest has been spreading across Iraq in recent weeks [Getty]

The US warned on Tuesday it would hold Iran accountable for any violence attributed to Tehran-allied militias in Iraq that harm its interests, despite an Iranian consulate being torched by Iraqi protesters in Basra this week.

"Over the past few days, we have seen life-threatening attacks in Iraq, including on the United States consulate in Basra and against the American embassy compound in Baghdad," the White House said in a statement. 

"Iran did not act to stop these attacks by its proxies in Iraq, which it has supported with funding, training, and weapons."

Three mortar shells hit late Friday the ultra-secure green zone in Baghdad, which houses Iraqi authorities and the US Embassy.

The rare attack - whose perpetrators remain unidentified - did not cause casualties or damage, according to Iraqi officials. 

But protesters in Basra have also burned down Iran's consulate and targeted Tehran-backed militia and political offices in the southern city.

Demonstrations - with protesters chanting "Iran out" - have been aimed at the Tehran-backed Iraqi government and Iran's interests in the country.

Powerful proxy militia forces operate and have been embedded in state institutions.

This has not stopped Washington from continuing to blame Iran for the current turmoil in Iraq.

"The United States will hold the regime in Tehran accountable for any attack that results in injury to our personnel or damage to United States government facilities," the White House statement said. 

"America will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of American lives."

Since Donald Trump took over the White House in early 2017, Washington has set Iran in its sights, accusing it of seeking to destabilise the Middle East.

The Republican president in May announced that Washington would withdraw unilaterally from the landmark nuclear pact signed in 2015 between Tehran and major global powers.

Iraq has been an initial victim of the US sanctions re-imposed on neighboring Iran, which it relies on for cheap imports.

Iran's ambassador to Iraq opened a new consulate for his country in the southern city of Basra on Tuesday, four days after its old mission building was torched by protesters angry at what they see as Iranian meddling in Iraqi politics.

Basra has seen a surge in deadly protests in the past week, with demonstrators enraged poor public services setting alight several key buildings.

Iran said the responsibility for any negligence over the incident lies with the Iraqi government, which announced an investigation into the security forces responsible for protecting the mission.

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