Iraq’s Defence Ministry denied Pentagon claims that it had collaborated in Thursday night’s US air raid on Iraqi anti-terrorist militias. But MPs from the opposition Fatah Alliance demanded Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi investigate the incident.
Iraqi MPs have demanded the government probe US claims that local spy agencies collaborated in a bombing raid targeting militia’s fighting Daesh*.
Two US F-15E attack jets bombed buildings at the al Qa’im-Abu Kamal border crossing between Iraq and Syria on Thursday night. US President Joe Biden claimed the target was Iranian-allied militia which he blamed for recent attacks on US military bases and convoys in the country.
US Defence secretary Lloyd Austin “praised our Iraqi partners for the investigative and intelligence work they did… that helped lead to these successful strikes,” Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said on Friday.
Hadi al-Amiri, leader of the Fatah Alliance in the Iraqi parliament, called on Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to investigate that assertion — which was denied by the Defence Ministry.
“Our intelligence indicates that, contrary to Washington’s claims, Hashd al-Sha’abi [Popular Mobilisation Forces — PMF] and not the Iraqi Islamic Resistance in Syria [al-Nujaba] was the target of the attack,” al-Amiri said.
The PMF is an official Iraqi umbrella group of militias formed by the government in 2014 to fight Daesh and equipped by the US. Al-Nujaba is a small group that has sent guerrillas to fight alongside the Syrian army, which US secretary of state Mike Pompeo designated a terrorist organisation in 2019.
Fatah spokesman and MP Ahmed al-Asadi said the air raid had killed and injured 30 people, Iran’s Press TV reported
“The repetition of the US bombing of Hashd al-Sha’abi positions and the barracks belonging to the Iraqi armed forces on the Syrian border is a clear violation of sovereignty and condemned,” al-Asadi said, calling on the government to unite with opposition parties against Washington.
A leader of one section of the PMF said the US airstrike on Abu Kamal had struck a headquarters of the militia.
Qais Khazali of the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq movement saw it as a deliberate continuation of attacks on the group begun under Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump.
“We condemn the targeting of the headquarters of Hashd al-Sha’abi, which is performing its task of protecting Iraq’s borders with Syria,” Khazali said. “This vile act shows the hostile policies of the new US government.”
“The withdrawal of US troops from Iraq is the only way to achieve stability in the country,” he added. “The people’s will, political decisions and the strength of the Iraqi resistance are sufficient to realize that goal.”
Trump negotiated a three-year timetable to pull US troops out of Iraq last year, following a wave of public and political condemnation of his approval of the January 2020 drone strike assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander General Qasem Soleimani at Baghdad airport.
Also killed in that attack were four officers of the PMF, including its deputy commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Soleimani had played a key role in training the PMF for its pivotal role in defeating Daesh from the terrorist force’s sudden rise in 2014, and Iraq took revenge for his killing with a ballistic missile attack on the Ayn al-Assad base in al-Anbar governorate.
Last week NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that the US-led alliance would increase its troop deployment in Iraq from the current 500 to 4,000.
The Biden administration has said it wants to return to the peaceful nuclear energy deal with Iran, negotiated when Biden was vice-president to Barack Obama, which Trump abandoned in 2018. But Washington has yet to lift sanctions on Tehran in line with its obligations under the treaty.
* Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS/Islamic State) is a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries