US ambassador meets senior Iraqi official amid growing tension
The US ambassador to Iraq, Matthew Tueller, met with Iraqi national security advisor Qasim Al-Araji on Monday amid growing tension between the two countries over continued rocket attacks by pro-Iran militias on the American embassy in Baghdad and other interests.
Washington has threatened to close its Baghdad embassy over the rocket attacks, while the Iraqi government has been taking urgent measures to avert this.
However, Sunday and Monday saw three IED attacks on US convoys in southern Iraq. At least three Iraqi civilians were killed in a rocket strike on Baghdad Airport on Monday, where US troops are based, when it landed on a home.
Al-Araji said on Twitter that Tueller had affirmed the US' continued support for Iraq "in all fields" during the meeting.
American officials said that on Sunday US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo phoned Iraqi President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi and warned them that the US was preparing to shut down the embassy – which is the largest in the world.
The US is also reportedly planning to withdraw its 3,000 troops from Iraq.
An Iraqi official told AFP recently that "the Americans aren't just angry. They'e really, really, really angry".
The US have accused Iranian sponsored militias of launching the rocket attacks against the embassy and US troops in the country.
In December 2019, a US airstrike killed dozens of militiamen from the Iran-backed Kataeb Hezbollah group in retaliation for rocket attacks and in January 2020, the US assassinated Iranian General Qasem Soleimani near Baghdad airport.
Iran has vowed revenge for the assassination.
However, both Iran and Iraqi political and militia groups close to Iran have recently announced their opposition to rocket attacks on foreign embassies in Iraq.
The identity of the militias which are still carrying out the attacks remains unknown. Washington is planning to move its diplomatic presence in Iraq to Erbil in the autonomous Kurdistan region if it closes its Baghdad embassy.
An Iraqi foreign ministry official, who chose to remain anonymous, told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service that US officials had informed their Iraqi counterparts that Iran-backed militias were planning an operation on a scale similar to the 2012 attack of the US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi, which killed four American diplomats.
The official said that the Iraqi government had sent additional troops to the high-security Green Zone in Baghdad, where the US embassy is located, "in order to assure all foreign missions".
Al-Arabiya TV also reported that the Iraqi parliament on Monday had voted to form committees to investigate the attacks on embassies, in line with US demands.