Flashpoint / Global 22 May 2020 Iraq Share Facebook Twitter Email Print Back To Map I. Why it Matters Both the threat of ISIS and the Kurdish push for independence saw, at least nominally, the U.S. and Iran pursue similar policy objectives in Iraq and implicitly cooperate. But longstanding U.S. concerns over Iranian influence in Iraq, shared by Washington’s regional allies, have grown with ISIS’s demise and a move by Iran-backed militias deep into territories claimed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Iraq could therefore see an escalation in the Iran-U.S. rivalry. II. Recent Developments 22 May 2020 Secretary of State Michael Pompeo discussed “Iraq’s economic crisis as well as the upcoming U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue” with Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. According to a U.S. readout, “Pompeo urged Prime Minister al-Kadhimi to pursue real reforms as he works with international institutions to provide financial assistance to Iraq”. View More 22 May 2020 Secretary of State Michael Pompeo discussed “Iraq’s economic crisis as well as the upcoming U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue” with Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. According to a U.S. readout, “Pompeo urged Prime Minister al-Kadhimi to pursue real reforms as he works with international institutions to provide financial assistance to Iraq”. View More 21 May 2020 The U.S. Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, posited that “our policy is to reverse Iran’s influence across the Middle East and to help countries like Iraq and Lebanon be free of Iranian interference. And I think there’s a lot of support for that among the Iraqi people. And one of the things the [Iraqi] prime minister [Mustafa al-Kadhimi] will be focused on, I think, is reclaiming Iraq’s sovereignty from Iranian interference”. Hook went on to say that “the [January 2020] death of Qassem Soleimani presents a better environment for the Iraqi people to have a government that represents their interests and not the interests of the Iranian regime”. View More 20 May 2020 President Rouhani stated that “resisting the oppressors and supporting the oppressed is one of the main pillars of the Islamic Republic of Iran… the people of Islamic Iran do not accept or tolerate oppression against the Palestinians in any way”. Rouhani went on to indicate that “we are pleased that we are witnessing the formation of a new government in Iraq… and the disagreements in Afghanistan have also led to a good agreement”. View More 18 May 2020 A rocket landed inside Baghdad’s Green Zone. No causalities were reported. View More 18 May 2020 President Rouhani told his Iraqi counterpart that “Iran is alongside the Iraqi government and nation like before, and favours protecting Iraqi sovereignty and non-interference of foreign powers in the future of the country’s government and people”. According to an Iraqi readout, the two presidents “discussed the ways of strengthening Baghdad-Tehran relations” and “agreed and emphasised that enhancing Iraq's sovereignty and security is of particular importance in regional and international levels”. View More 17 May 2020 Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei contended that “the Americans openly say that they have deployed their forces in Syria because there is oil there. Of course, they will not stay for long either in Iraq or in Syria. They will certainly have to leave those countries, and they will definitely be expelled”. View More 16 May 2020 Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami spoke to his Iraqi counterpart and remarked: “we want to give Iraq all our capacities and we want to become strategic partners and turn our relations into a successful model of cooperation”. The Iraqi Defence Minister also met with Iran’s military attaché in Baghdad, who expressed “Iran’s readiness to expand cooperation with Iraq, especially in the military and defence fields”. The two also reportedly discussed “the status of terrorism and the recent movement of ISIS as well as boosting the Intelligence Exchange Center for the fight against terrorism [with the cooperation of Iran, Russia, Syria and Iraq]”. View More 16 May 2020 Iran's military attaché expressed to Iraq’s Defence Minister “Iran’s readiness to expand cooperation with Iraq, especially in the military and defence fields”. The two officials reportedly discussed “the status of terrorism and the recent movement of ISIS as well as boosting the Intelligence Exchange Center for the fight against terrorism [with the cooperation of Iran, Russia, Syria and Iraq]”. View More 13 May 2020 The U.S. convened the UN “Security Council to meet under its 2231 Format to discuss Iran’s April 22 satellite launch”, which it called “yet another example of Iran’s relentless defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231”. According to the U.S. mission, its representatives “highlighted Iran’s ongoing violation of the UN arms embargo in Resolution 2231, reminding Council members that Iran continues to funnel weapons to proxy forces and terrorist groups in places like Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Bahrain”. The U.S. also argued that “Iran’s continued violations of the Security Council’s arms embargo demands greater pressure from the Security Council, not less, and the U.S. will work tirelessly with a coalition of concerned nations to ensure the embargo is extended”. View More 13 May 2020 A senior U.S. diplomat assessed that “the Iranian threat… is actually severe and getting worse on some fronts, and the Iranians continue to make progress on the nuclear front, etc. So this is a growing concern of ours”. Asked about “incidents lately that kind of increase that urgency about the Iranian threat”, the official replied: “the most obvious thing is that you see things oftentimes blowing up in Syria… what appears to be increased Israeli operational tempo and broadening its target set”. The official went on to say that “the Iranians are still certainly provocative. Maybe in some places slow down operational tempo a little bit… There are [COVID-19] curfews so it is hard for their proxy militias to go out at night and try and kill Americans. But they still go, and the threat is still there, and they’re still planning and they’re still shooting. Their allies in Iraq continue to shoot rockets at U.S. facilities”. View More 10 May 2020 President Rouhani congratulated Mustafa al-Kadhimi on his confirmation as prime minister, and expressed his hope that “cooperation and relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Iraq [will] further deepen in all fields of mutual interest for both nations and establishing peace and stability in the region”. The following day, President Trump congratulated al-Kadhimi by telephone and “expressed the support of the U.S. for Iraq during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and emphasised the shared interest with Iraq in achieving the enduring defeat of ISIS”. According to an Iraqi readout, Trump also expressed readiness to “provide the necessary economic assistance to support the Iraqi economy”. View More 9 May 2020 Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi met with the U.S. ambassador to Iraq and maintained that “Iraq will not be a proxy arena for settling affairs or a launch pad for attacking any neighbouring or friendly country”. Al-Kadhimi also met with Iran’s ambassador, who reported that “bilateral cooperation, continuation of actions regarding the 1975 Algiers Agreement, banking cooperation, Khorramshahr-Basra railway and visa for the two countries’ citizens were discussed”. View More 6 May 2020 The Iraqi parliament approved Mustafa al-Kadhimi as Prime Minister. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif congratulated al-Kadhimi and underscored that “Iran always stands with the Iraqi people and their choice of administration”. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to al-Kadhimi and welcomed his government. According to a U.S. readout, the two “discussed the urgent hard work ahead for the Iraqi government, implementing reforms, addressing COVID-19 and fighting corruption”. Pompeo also indicated that “in support of the new government the U.S. will move forward with a 120-day electricity waiver as a display of our desire to help provide the right conditions for success”. View More 6 May 2020 Three rockets hit the vicinity of Baghdad International Airport, one of which reportedly landed close to a facility hosting U.S. forces. View More 1 May 2020 The U.S. sanctioned an Iranian-Iraqi dual citizen, Amir Dianat, whom it said was “involved in IRGC-QF [ie, Quds force] efforts to generate revenue and smuggle weapons abroad”. According to the Treasury Department, which also sanctioned a company controlled by Dianat, the Quds force “relied on Dianat to security entry for vessels IRGC-QF shipments”. The U.S. also asserted that “Dianat has been directly involved in IRGC-QF efforts to smuggle shipments from Yemen to Iran”. View More 29 April 2020 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that “we’re watching closely as Prime Minister-designate Mustafa al-Kadhimi enters the third week of trying to form his government. The Iraqi people need and deserve a government that frees the country from external intimidation, puts the prosperity of the Iraqi people first and tackles the major challenges that continue to face Iraq”. Pompeo further asserted: “Iraqi leaders must put aside the sectarian quota system and make compromises that lead to government formation for the good of the Iraqi people, and for the partnership between the U.S. and Iraq. The Iraqi government, too, must heed the call from many elements of Iraqi society to bring all armed groups under state control”. View More 26 April 2020 The U.S. extended by 30 days Iraq’s sanctions waiver for Iranian electricity imports “to allow time for the formation of a credible government” in Iraq. “Once that government is in place”, a State Department official indicated, “the Secretary will reassess whether to renew the waiver and for how long”. View More 16 April 2020 The Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS Small Group “agreed to maintain maximum pressure on Daesh/ISIS despite the several and multifaceted challenges, including those posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in order to achieve the enduring defeat of the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria”. They also “agreed that Operation Inherent Resolve’s training role, temporarily suspended due to the pandemic, will resume as conditions permit”. “The Political Directors of the Global Coalition, while maintaining the importance of guaranteeing the sovereignty of Iraq, also stressed the importance of increasing our various forms of assistance and stabilisation support to liberated areas”, the statement added. View More 13 April 2020 U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated: “we welcome that Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political leaders [in Iraq] seem to have arrived at a consensus on government formation, and hope the new government puts Iraq’s interests first and meets the needs of the Iraqi people”. “We stand with the Iraqi people as they seek a sovereign, prosperous Iraq, free of corruption and terror”, Pompeo added. View More 10 April 2020 The U.S. announced “a reward of up to $10 million for information on the activities, networks, and associates of Muhammad Kawtharani”, whom it described as “a senior leader of Hizbollah’s forces in Iraq”. According to the State Department, Kawtharani had “taken over some of the political coordination of Iran-aligned paramilitary groups formerly organised by Qassem Soleimani after Soleimani’s death”. View More 10 April 2020 Media reports citing U.S. officials revealed that “Patriot missile launchers and two other short-range systems are now in place at al-Assad Air Base… and at the military base in Erbil”. Defensive systems were additionally deployed at Camp Taji. View More 9 April 2020 A U.S. senior diplomat indicated that “in the fine tradition of Qassem Soleimani, the Iranians continue now with the – their next – the next IRGC [Quds force] commander, Ghaani, and others, proxies… who are visiting or residing in Iraq, trying to influence and interfere in the Iraqi political process. We think this is counterproductive”. “It’s clear that Ghaani was there [in Iraq] doing what Iranians have done, what the regime does with meddling in, destabilising, playing in, undermining the sovereignty of regional states… If I was an Iraqi, I would be furious at the role that Iran is playing and the role that Iran proxies are playing by basically doing the bidding of the IRGC”. View More 9 April 2020 A senior U.S. diplomat assessed the threat against U.S. forces in Iraq as “significant”, adding: “we noted that Kataeb Hizbollah last week listed on their website the ceasefire declaration, saying it would abstain from attacking U.S. forces. We take these things with a grain of salt. We would of course welcome if Kataeb Hizbollah did not attack us, but we still see a significant threat to U.S. personnel and forces, military forces in Iraq and that persists”. View More 9 April 2020 President Barham Salih appointed Mustafa al-Kadhimi as Iraq’s prime minister after Adnan al-Zurfi failed to form a government. Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson welcomed the nomination by describing it as “a right step in the right direction” and expressed “full readiness to cooperate with the Iraqi government so that it can overcome the problems and achieve the great goals of the Iraqi people and the top religious authority”. A senior U.S. official said “it’s a sad defeat for the people of Iraq that Zurfi did not get a change after being designated to present his slate of ministers”. He also described al-Kadhimi, as “impressive in his own right” and opined: “if he is an Iraqi patriot, which he appears to be, and is going to be fighting for reform against corruption and for Iraqi sovereignty, as the Iraqi patriot that he is, then this is something that’s also going to create problems for Iran, undoubtedly”. View More 7 April 2020 The U.S.-led counter-ISIS coalition transferred “the site used by the French advisers inside the [Abu Gharib] military headquarters in Baghdad… to Iraqi forces”, citing the Iraqi military’s “anti-ISIS success”. View More 7 April 2020 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that “the U.S. has proposed a Strategic Dialogue with the government of Iraq to be held in middle of June. With the global COVID-19 pandemic ranging and plummeting all revenues, threatening an Iraqi economic collapse, it’s important that our two governments work together to stop any reversal of the gains we’ve made in our efforts to defeat ISIS and stabilise the country”. “All strategic issues between our two countries will be on the agenda, including the future presence of the U.S forces in that country, and how best to support an independent and sovereign Iraq”, Pompeo added. He further opined: “a leader who is put forward, who’s prepared to engage in the reforms, that will build out a sovereign, independent Iraq on behalf of the Iraqi people and move away from the old sectarian model that ended up with terror and corruption – any leader that’s put forward that will do that [as prime minister], the U.S. is happy to support”. View More 6 April 2020 Multiple rockets struck close to a U.S. energy company’s facilities in Basra province. No damage or injuries were reported. View More 4 April 2020 The U.S.-led counter-ISIS coalition held a base transfer ceremony at al-Taqaddum (Habbaniya) Air Base west of Baghdad, noting that “over the last month we have transferred four bases to full ISF [Iraq Security Forces] control”. A coalition statement noted that “these military movements are long-planned in coordination with the government of Iraq. These pre-planned base transfers are not related to recent attacks against Iraqi bases hosting Coalition troops, or the ongoing COVID-19 situation in Iraq”. View More 2 April 2020 Iran’s military chief of staff denied Iranian involvement in a series of rocket attacks against Iraqi bases hosting U.S. forces. He contended that the attacks were “a natural reaction by Iraqi people” to the U.S. killing of Qassem Soleimeni and a senior Iraqi militia commander in January, and posited that the “Americans are trying to pin them on us as part of their blame game”. He warned that “if [Americans] take the smallest step against the security of our country, they will be faced with the most severe reaction”, going on to claim that “recent days have witnessed an increase, to some extent, in the U.S.’s military activities across Iraq and the Persian Gulf. On the psychological and media fronts, too, they are engaged in massive dissemination of news denoting that they have plans against resistance groups in Iraq and Hashd al-Shaabi”. View More 2 April 2020 A Pentagon spokesperson affirmed that “the U.S. is moving defensive systems into Iraq to protect Iraqi, coalition and U.S. service members from a variety of air threats seen at Iraqi bases that host coalition troops… The establishment of ground-based air defences in Iraq continues, but for operational security reasons, we are not providing status updates as those systems come online”. “The Iraqi government is well aware of our collective need for air defence protection of service members within Iraq, and we continue to coordinate closely with our Iraqi counterparts”, the statement added. View More 1 April 2020 U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper asserted that “the Iranian regime continues to want to spread its malign activities throughout the region. They want to continue to send out the Quds Force and others to… cause problems throughout the region. We know that, in one way, shape or form, they’re resourcing, directing, approving of whatever operations for Shiite militia groups in Iraq that are targeting American forces”. He further indicated that “I feel deep concern for the Iranian people [amidst the COVID-19 pandemic]. The important thing is that the Iranian government should focus on them and stop this malign behaviour that they’ve been conducting now for over 40 years. I think the entire region, and certainly the Iranian people, would be better off for it”. View More 1 April 2020 President Trump declared that “upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq. If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif cautioned Trump against being “misled by usual warmongers, again” and added: “Iran has friends. No one can have millions of ‘proxies’. Unlike the U.S. – which surreptitiously lies, cheats and assassinates – Iran only acts in self-defence. Openly Iran starts no wars, but teaches lessons to those who do”. View More 1 April 2020 Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson warned that what he described as “military moves” by the U.S. in Iraq “are against the official and announced will of the Iraqi government, parliament and people, would create tensions and could steer the regional situation towards instability and catastrophic conditions”. View More 31 March 2020 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asserted that “we know that those Shiite militias who have attacked the Americans [in Iraq] are trained, equipped, underwritten by the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and it’s been President Trump’s policy consistently that says that we will respond against all of those who facilitated, trained, equipped and enabled those attacks on America. That holds as true today as it did two weeks, four weeks, or back in the beginning of January, when we took a strike against Qassem Soleimani”. View More 29 March 2020 Iraqi Prime Minister-Designate Adnan al-Zurfi asserted that “helping Iran face the coronavirus will help prevent a humanitarian catastrophe… the international community must help them by lifting or easing the sanctions and providing medical treatments, as this has health and security repercussions on Iraq”. View More 29 March 2020 The U.S.-led counter-ISIS coalition began “to hand over the inner-Coalition area of K1 Air Base” near Kirkuk to the Iraqi Security Forces as part of a force consolidation plan. View More 26 March 2020 The U.S.-led counter-ISIS coalition “conducted a base transfer ceremony… at Qayyarah Airfield West (Q-West)” as part of a previously announced force consolidation plan. View More 26 March 2020 Two rockets landed inside Baghdad’s Green Zone. No casualties were reported. View More 26 March 2020 The U.S. designated “20 individuals and entities that violate Iraqi sovereignty and exploit Iraq’s economy to funnel money to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF)”. The U.S. diplomatic spokesperson contended that “some of these people help provide the financial support that enables the IRGC-QF to transfer lethal aid to Iranian-backed terrorist groups such as Kataeb Hizbollah (KH) and Asaeb Ahl al-Haq (AAH) and engage in other malign activities that undermine the Iraqi government’s efforts toward energy independence”. She added that “among today’s designations include entities and individuals that exploit for the benefit of the IRGC-QF Iraq’s dependence on Iranian electricity imports. Under a U.S.-issued sanctions waiver, Iraq is permitted to engage in financial transactions related to the import of electricity from Iran. The purpose of this waiver, which the U.S. is renewing today, is to meet the immediate energy needs of the Iraqi people”. The duration of the waiver was reportedly 30 days. View More 23 March 2020 In a statement marking the anniversary of ISIS’s territorial defeat, the U.S.-led counter-ISIS coalition indicated that “we have reached a point in the campaign where our partners are taking the fight to the remnants of Daesh independently and preventing Daesh’s resurgence. As a result, the Coalition will consolidate to fewer bases with fewer people and remains committed to supporting our partners ensuring the enduring defeat of Daesh”. The Global Coalition also issued a statement for the occasion, noting that “ISIS remains a significant threat. The Global Coalition will continue its comprehensive efforts in Iraq and Syria, and globally, to deny ISIS’s ambitions and the activities of its branches and networks, until the job is done”. View More 20 March 2020 Discussing rocket attacks against bases hosting U.S. forces in Iraq, a senior U.S. diplomat asserted that “the Iraqi government is at a decision point. If it doesn’t take steps to hold accountable those responsible for the attacks on coalition forces, which are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government, the U.S. will be forced to continue to protect our forces proactively”. He added that “we’ve been, I think, enormously disappointed with the performance of the Government of Iraq in fulfilling its obligations to protect coalition forces… that remains a point of contention”. The official further explained that the repositioning of U.S. forces in the country “was planned” and “makes sense. It’s in part because the Iraqi forces that we have been training are better ready to stand on their own feet and do the work... [and] in the era of corona, we’re looking for maybe fewer bases with fewer people on them”. View More 17 March 2020 President Barham Salih appointed Adnan al-Zarfi as Iraq’s prime minister. A senior U.S. diplomat stated: “we are hoping that pro-Iran parties – that is, Iran and its ally – do not move to scuttle the nomination. They seem prepared to shoot down anyone who is not completely subservient to Iran. This is an inflection point for Iraq, whether [they] will choose sovereignty or whether they will choose to become a wholly owned subsidiary of Iran”. He also indicated that “a government that prioritises Iraq and heeds the legitimate demands made by Iraqis for a sovereign and corrupt-free nation will receive U.S. and international support”. View More 17 March 2020 The U.S.-led counter-ISIS coalition announced that it had “conducted a base transfer ceremony with the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) at al-Qaim”, located close to Iraq’s border with Syria. “The Coalition will operate from fewer locations but remains committed to supporting our partners in their fight against Daesh [ie, ISIS]”, the statement added. View More 17 March 2020 Approximately three rockets were fired into Baghdad's Green Zone. View More 16 March 2020 Two rockets targeted an Iraqi military training facility hosting counter-ISIS coalition forces in Basmaya, south east of Baghdad. View More 15 March 2020 A spokesperson for the U.S.-led counter-ISIS coalition confirmed that “as a result of the success of Iraqi Security Forces in their fight against ISIS, the Coalition is re-positioning troops from a few smaller bases… These bases remain under Iraqi control and we will continue our advising partnership for the permanent defeat of Daesh [ie, ISIS] from other Iraqi military bases”. View More 14 March 2020 The spokesperson for the U.S.-led counter-ISIS coalition confirmed that “at least 25 107mm rockets impacted Iraq's Camp Taji base”, wounding three U.S. soldiers. The following day, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talked to Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi and “underscored that the groups responsible for these attacks must be held accountable… America will not tolerate attacks and threats to American lives and will take additional action as necessary in self-defence”. View More 13 March 2020 Discussing 12 March U.S. strikes against five Kataeb Hizbollah sites in Iraq, which followed a rocket attack against Camp Taji that killed three coalition members, CENTCOM commander Kenneth McKenzie stated that “these defensive strikes were designed to destroy Iranian-supplied advanced conventional weapons… I would caution Iran and its proxies from attempting a response”. McKenzie added that “we do believe that behind Kataeb Hizbollah ultimately is the state of Iran. And the state of Iran is very much aware that we hold them responsible for what Kataeb Hizbollah does”. He further assessed that “now people know that we're not going to – we're not going to tolerate these direct attacks on American or coalition service members, and we're willing and able to respond”. McKenzie also posited that “the threat remains very high… they [ie, Iranians] are actively seeking ways to achieve destabilisation that would allow them to escape the strictures of the maximum pressure campaign”, adding that “perhaps coronavirus even increases [stress and pressure] on them”. He also confirmed that “we have put the preparatory material in place that allows us to establish Patriot positions inside Iraq”. View More 12 March 2020 The U.S. announced that it had “conducted defensive precision strikes against Kataeb Hezbollah (KH) facilities across Iraq”, underscoring that the operation was “in direct response to the threat posed by Iranian-backed Shiite militia groups (SMG) who continue to attack bases hosting OIR coalition forces”. The Pentagon's statement further warned that “these terror groups must cease their attacks on U.S. and coalition forces or face consequences at a time and place of our choosing”. CENTCOM commander Kenneth McKenzie asserted: “I would caution Iran and its proxies from attempting a response that would endanger U.S. and coalition forces or our partners… We have the flexibility, capability and will to respond to any threat”. The Iraqi military reported six fatalities and a dozen wounded as a result of the U.S. operation, including civilians. Iraqi President Barham Salih issued a statement describing the strikes “as violation of national sovereignty”, adding that the presidency “rejects all steps by other countries to settle scores on Iraqi soil, those seeking to fight by proxy… If these violations are repeatedly occurred, Iraq will plunge back into chaos and violence”. View More 11 March 2020 Syrian state media reported that “unidentified aircrafts have attacked Deir al-Zour north-eastern countryside in vicinity of the Syrian-Iraqi borders… causing only material damage”. View More 11 March 2020 The U.S.-led counter-ISIS coalition confirmed that “three Coalition personnel were killed during a rocket attack on Camp Taji, Iraq… approximately twelve additional personnel were wounded”. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo subsequently spoke with his British counterpart and the two “underscored that those responsible for the attacks must be held accountable”. The following day, CENTCOM commander Kenneth McKenzie noted: “the Iranian proxy group Kataeb Hezbollah is the only group known to have previously conducted an indirect fire attack of this scale against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq”. U.S. Defence Secretary Esper asserted that the attack was carried out “by Iranian-backed Shiite militia groups”, and conveyed that President Trump had provided “the authority to do what we need to do… I’m not going to take any options off the table right now, but we are focused on the group – groups – that we believe perpetrated this in Iraq, as the immediate [focus]”. View More 10 March 2020 Testifying before the House Armed Service Committee, CENTCOM commander Kenneth McKenzie affirmed that “most of the U.S. intelligence community predicts that without sustained pressure levied against it, ISIS has the potential to reconstitute in Iraq and Syria in short order, beyond the current capabilities of the U.S. to neutralise it without a capable, partnered ground force”. On Syria, he recommended that “moving forward, we must continue our support to NATO ally Turkey and our D-ISIS partner force, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), while maintaining deconfliction with Russia, which, along with the Assad regime, aggressively challenges the Coalition mission in various ways”. McKenzie further reiterated that “we remain in Iraq at the request of the Government of Iraq for one reason: the defeat of ISIS”, adding that “hindering our ability to work with the Iraqi Security Forces toward this objective [of defeating ISIS] are rogue elements of the Popular Mobilisation Forces more beholden to Iran’s regime than the government of Iraq. Some of these militias smuggle advanced weapons into Iraq from Iran, not to defend the country from ISIS, but to undermine existing security and threaten U.S. and Coalition forces”. McKenzie also indicated that “we are in the process of bringing air defence systems, ballistic missile defence systems into Iraq – particularly to protect ourselves against another potential Iranian attack”. View More 10 March 2020 Testifying before the House Armed Service Committee, CENTCOM commander Kenneth McKenzie indicated that “we are in the process of bringing air defence systems, ballistic missile defence systems into Iraq – particularly to protect ourselves against another potential Iranian attack”. “Going forward, it is CENTCOM’s objective to posture forces in the region with the operational depth to achieve a consistent state of deterrence against Iran and be adaptable to future Iranian threats”, he added, further positing that Iran’s January 2020 missile strikes at Iraqi bases hosting U.S. forces “crossed a threshold compared to previous attacks and has probably set a lower bar for future actions by the regime”. McKenzie went on to assert that “while periods of decreased tension may provide the illusion of a return to normalcy, ample intelligence indicates the regime’s desire to continue malign activities… So long as the U.S. applies diplomatic and economic pressure, the joint force must be postured to deter Iran from employing the military element of power to counter our actions”. View More 9 March 2020 The U.S.-led counter-ISIS coalition confirmed that “two U.S. service members were killed by enemy forces while advising and accompanying Iraqi security forces during a mission to eliminate an ISIS terrorist stronghold in a mountainous area of north central Iraq” the previous day. View More 8 March 2020 Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani visited Iraq and met with President Barham Salih and other senior Iraqi leaders. Salih remarked that “coordination and joint action with Iran in the field of combatting terrorism and extremism, and supporting Iraq’s efforts to maintain its sovereignty and security is of great importance”. In a joint press conference with a senior security official, Shamkhani emphasised that “measures taken by the Iraqi government, parliament and nation, who have demanded to oust U.S. forces in their huge rallies, deserve gratitude”. He also maintained that “we see no reason to interfere in Iraq’s domestic affairs”. Shamkhani subsequently stated: “visiting Iraq, I asked the Iraqi authorities to identify and introduce the internal agents involved in the assassination operation of the martyrs Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis”. View More 5 March 2020 Baghdad’s Green Zone was targeted by three rockets. View More 1 March 2020 Two rockets landed inside Baghdad’s Green Zone, one of which reportedly fell “near the U.S. embassy”. View More 1 March 2020 Iraq’s prime minister-designate, Mohammad Allawi, issued a statement in which he asserted that “I tried by all possible means to save Iraq from drifting to the unknown and to solve the current crisis, but during negotiations I faced many matters”, and pulled out of consideration for the premiership. The following day, Adel Abdul-Mahdi announced that he would quit his major duties as caretaker, while warning that “the most dangerous thing that we currently face is the prospect of a constitutional and administrative vacuum”. View More 26 February 2020 The U.S. designated Ahmad al-Hamidawi, the Secretary General of Kataeb Hizbollah, “as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) pursuant to Executive Order 13224”. View More 25 February 2020 The U.S. designated “thirteen foreign entities and individuals in China, Iraq, Russia and Turkey pursuant to the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act”, including five entities and individuals in China and Turkey “for supporting Iran’s missile program”. According to the State Department, “the imposition of these measures underscores that Iran’s missile program remains a significant proliferation concern. The imposition of sanctions against these foreign entities is consistent with our efforts to use all available measures to prevent Iran from advancing its missile capabilities”. View More 24 February 2020 A U.S. diplomatic spokesperson indicated that “we’re still going to do everything we can to deter the Shiite militias [in Iraq] from attacking us… we’re starting to see and continue to see more of this activity start to creep up again”. She further warned that “the Iranian regime should know that we will hold them accountable for any actions that their Shiite militias take in Iraq… We were serious at the beginning of the year when we warned them on this before we killed Qassem Soleimani and we’re serious about it now, and they need to take those warnings seriously”. View More 19 February 2020 Referring to the 16 February attack on Baghdad’s Green Zone which caused no casualties, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asserted that Iraqi government “has a responsibility to keep our embassy and our military facilities secure. They’ve repeatedly not been able to achieve that… We’re looking to not only apprehend those who conducted this attack, but demanding that they still do more work… we are mindful that it cannot become ordinary course that the Iranians through their proxy forces in Iraq are putting the lives of Americans at risk. This can’t be ordinary. This can’t be routine. There, in the end, has to be accountability connected to those very serious attacks”. View More 16 February 2020 Secretary of Defense Mark Esper indicated that “we have seen a change in Iranians’ behaviour… We restored deterrence. And it's something we watch very, very carefully”. Referring to U.S. presence in Iraq, Esper argued that “the Iraqis want us there. And I hear it from them privately. I hear it from our friends in the Middle East who talk to them… The Sunnis want us there. And many of the Shiite want us there. But the challenge is the politics, given the influence of Iran through their proxies, is weighing heavily on Baghdad and how they move forward”. View More 16 February 2020 A spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve confirmed that “small rockets impacted the Iraqi base hosting coalition troops in the [Baghdad] International Zone”, adding that there were “no casualties”. View More 16 February 2020 Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah assessed that “confrontation between the U.S. and the forces which reject to surrender to its will is inevitable” and stated that “all the regional peoples must be prepared for the key confrontation”. “The Israeli enemy”, he added, “has a major weakness which is the human losses; similarly, the Americans have their economic and financial situation as a point of fragility. Hizbollah hit the Israeli enemy at its weakness, so, likewise, we can concentrate on the U.S. economic interests”. Nasrallah further urged Iraqis “to respond to the U.S. crime of assassinating the two martyrs Hajj al-Muhandis and General Soleimani, preserve the Popular Mobilisation [Hashd al-Shaabi] in spite of the U.S. scheme to eradicate it, expel the U.S. forces of Iraq and strengthen the Iraqi role in the region”. View More 13 February 2020 A military base hosting U.S. troops in northern Iraq was targeted by a rocket; no casualties were reported. View More 13 February 2020 The State Department confirmed that “the U.S. has granted a 45-day waiver to allow Iraq to pay for electricity imports from Iran”. A statement added that the exemption “ensures that Iraq is able to meet its short-term energy needs while it takes steps to reduce its dependence on Iranian energy imports”, going on to assert that “Iran has proven itself as a highly unreliable source of energy for Iraq. Reducing Iranian energy imports is therefore paramount for Iraq to achieve energy security”. View More 12 February 2020 NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that “today Allied ministers reaffirmed our support to Iraq, and agreed in principle to enhance NATO’s training mission. In the first instance, this will consist of taking on some of the Global Coalition’s current training activities”. He further maintained that “NATO is in Iraq on the invitation of the Iraqi Government. And we will only stay in Iraq as long as we are welcome. Because NATO fully respects Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”. “Every step, every decision will be taken, of course, in close connection, consultation, with the Iraqi government, but also in close connection with the Global Coalition”, he added. “We will resume the training activities as soon as possible”. View More 11 February 2020 Secretary of Defense Mark Esper remarked that “what we want to do is increase the NATO activities' presence in Iraq, making sure that we're fully living up to the capacity available to us in NATO Mission Iraq. And then, of course, to the degree that NATO can – can offset the U.S. presence, that would over time allow us to bring some forces home”. Esper further noted that “I also want to see if NATO can help us, help our friends and partners in the Middle East with air defence, as an example. So the Saudis in particular are – need additional air defence assets to deter Iranian bad behaviour. They're not the only country, but that's an example where I'd like to see greater NATO participation, or at least our NATO partners participating”. View More 10 February 2020 Tehran reopened its consulate in Najaf, which had been attacked by protesters and damaged in November 2019. View More 6 February 2020 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asserted that “we are outraged by the violence perpetrated in the city of Najaf on February 5 that led to the killing and wounding of peaceful demonstrators”. He further called on “the government of Iraq to take immediate steps to hold accountable the militias, thugs and vigilante groups in Najaf and other cities for their attacks against Iraqis exercising their right to peaceful protest”. Pompeo also stated: “to the courageous Iraqi people seeking reform and a government free of corruption and Iranian meddling, we offer America’s continued friendship and support”. View More 5 February 2020 The U.S. Special Representative for Syria, James Jeffery, indicated that “we are continuing to work with the Iraqis”, adding that “the NATO Mission Iraq has indicated a willingness to take on a somewhat larger role”. He also reported that “we have not seen a significant increase in ISIS activities either in northeast Syria or in Iraq. They’ve been at a level that has been of concern… There may have been a slight increase in the number of attacks, but because the attack levels are fairly low by our historic standards with ISIS and other insurgency and terrorist groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, a few incidents here and there can make a difference”. View More 5 February 2020 The prime minister of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, Masrour Barzani, assessed that U.S. and counter-ISIS coalition forces “have been very helpful… in fighting ISIS. We do believe that their presence is still is very much needed because ISIS is a major threat”. View More 4 February 2020 The head of U.S. Central Command, General Frank McKenzie, visited Iraq and met with Iraqi leaders. He subsequently indicated that “the U.S. and the coalition perspective is that decisions about the future presence in Iraq should be made based on the Daesh [ie, ISIS] threat… we all realise there’s a significant threat from Daesh and if we take our foot off the pedal it’s going to come back”. View More 4 February 2020 Iran’s ambassador to Iraq remarked that “Tehran welcomes Iraq’s role in seeking to resolve outstanding issues between Iran and Saudi Arabia and regional issues… the Iraqi government has played a constructive role in the region and we welcome any effort to reduce tension”. He also called on the U.S. to “stop interfering in the affairs of the region and dismantle their bases”, adding that “in the event that the U.S. commits another crime, Iran will respond to it again”. View More 1 February 2020 President Barham Salih appointed Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi as prime minister of Iraq. Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson said that Tehran “welcomes the appointment”, adding: “under the current sensitive situation which Iraqi people and government are facing, Iran is ready to provide the Iraqi government and nation with all necessary means to tackle their problems”. View More 30 January 2020 The Iraqi military stated that “in order to exploit the time that remains for the international [counter-ISIS] coalition before the new relationship is set up… it was decided to carry out joint actions”. View More 29 January 2020 In statement, the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS Small Group underscored that “the Coalition will continue to further develop its support to and close partnership with the Iraqi government, the Iraqi Security Forces and our partners in the region in their ongoing efforts to diminish Daesh/ISIS’s capabilities and ensure it cannot reemerge”. Expressing “full respect of Iraqi sovereignty”, the coalition stated: “we will continue the close dialogue with the Iraqi government on appropriate measures to adapt the operational efficiency and coordination of our collective efforts”. “In Syria”, the statement added, “the Coalition stands with the Syrian people in support of a lasting political settlement based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254”. View More 27 January 2020 In a conversation with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, U.S. Secretary of State Mike "Pompeo expressed his outrage at the continued assaults by Iran's armed groups against U.S. facilities in Iraq, including yesterday's attacks against our Embassy, which resulted in one injury". According to the State Department, Pompeo "underlined once again that these attacks demonstrate a wanton disregard for Iraqi sovereignty and a failure to rein in these dangerous armed groups", and characterised the 26 January attack "as an attempt to distract Iraqi and international attention away from the brutal suppression of peaceful Iraqi protesters by Iran and its proxies". View More 26 January 2020 The U.S. embassy in Baghdad was hit by multiple rockets, wounding one person. In a statement, Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi “deplore[d] the continuation of these condemned and outlawed acts that weaken the state and undermine its sovereignty”. He indicated that an investigation was underway, adding that “the continuation of this irresponsible, unilateral act, whole country bears its dangerous ramifications, repercussions, leads to harming the higher interests of the country and its relations with its friends, which may drag Iraq to be a battlefield, especially at a time when the government began measures to implement the parliament’s decision to withdraw foreign forces from the country”. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry also voiced “its most vigorous rejection, and its condemnation of the aggression” and underscored that “it is most keen to preserve the sanctity of all diplomatic missions working in Iraq”. View More 23 January 2020 Explaining the scope of suspension of the D-ISIS coalition’s operations, a senior U.S. military official stated that “at… the general officer level, our engagements with our Iraqi counterparts are ongoing, and then down at the lower levels at those operational commands, our advisors that are on the ground in those areas are still maintaining regular contact with our Iraqi counterparts. We also do continue to fly intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets overhead”. The official further assessed that “most of the attacks against coalition forces in Iraq have come from elements of the Iranian threat network”, adding that “I see their activity against the coalition and frankly some of their activity in some parts of the country that are dominated by Sunni populations is really… one of the underlying conditions that needs to be addressed if we’re really going to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS”. View More 22 January 2020 Prior to a bilateral meeting with the Iraqi President Barham Salih in Switzerland, President Trump addressed the U.S. military presence in Iraq by noting that “they [ie, Iraq] like what we’re doing and we like them, and we’ve had a very good relationship… we’re down to 5,000 [troops]. So we’re down to a very low number – historically low. And we’ll see what happens”. Later, Salih’s office indicated that “during the meeting, reducing foreign troops and the importance of respecting the demands of Iraqi people to preserve the country’s sovereignty were discussed”. View More 20 January 2020 Three rockets landed within Baghdad’s Green Zone, two of which reportedly fell “near the U.S. embassy”. View More 19 January 2020 U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “reaffirmed the important role of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS” in a conversation with Iraqi President Barham Salih, and the two “agreed on the need to reduce tensions in the region”. A readout from Salih’s office additionally indicated that Pompeo and Salih “underlined the requirement for all to act with restraint, called for the policy of appeasements to give space for a constructive dialogue in dealing with the crises and de-escalating the situation”. View More 17 January 2020 The U.S. military confirmed that "while no U.S. service members were killed in the January 8 Iranian attack on al-Assad Air base, several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed”. View More 14 January 2020 The Iraqi military reported rocket fire at Taji military base; the U.S.-led counter-ISIS coalition spokesperson confirmed that “no Coalition troops were affected by this small attack”. View More 12 January 2020 Eight rockets targeted Balad air base, injuring four Iraqi military personnel. U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo said he was “outraged” by the news, and urged the Iraqi government “to hold those responsible for this attack on the Iraqi people accountable”. He further asserted that “these continued violations of Iraq’s sovereignty by groups not loyal to the Iraqi government must end”. View More 10 January 2020 Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi asked U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “to send delegates to Iraq to lay down the mechanisms for implementing the House’s decision to withdraw forces safely from Iraq”. Abdul-Mahdi additionally informed Pompeo “that there are American forces entering Iraq and American drones flying in his sky without permission from the Iraqi government”, noting that “this is in violation of the agreements in force”. The same day, the U.S. State Department announced that “any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership—not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East.”. The department’s spokesperson further underscored that “there does… need to be a conversation between the U.S. and Iraqi governments not just regarding security, but about our financial, economic and diplomatic partnership”. View More 9 January 2020 In a conversation with the NATO secretary general, Secretary of State Pompeo urged “NATO to become more involved in the Middle East, and the two”. According to a U.S. readout of the call, both officials “agreed NATO could contribute more to regional security and the fight against international terrorism” and “condemned Iran’s destabilising violence and remain committed to countering international terrorism, including through NATO’s participation in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and training missions in Iraq and Afghanistan”. View More 8 January 2020 President Trump remarked that “Iran appears to be standing down” following missile launches into Iraq the previous day “As we continue to evaluate options in response to Iranian aggression”, he added, “the U.S. will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime. These powerful sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behaviour”. Trump also asserted that “the very defective JCPOA expires shortly anyway”, and urged the P4+1 to “break away from the remnants of the Iran deal… we must all work together towards making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and better place”. Trump further indicated that would “ask NATO to become much more involved in the Middle East process”, and noted that “the destruction of ISIS is good for Iran, and we should work together on this and other shared priorities”. “The U.S. is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it”, he concluded. View More 8 January 2020 Iran launched what the Pentagon subsequently assessed were sixteen ballistic missiles into Iraq. According to the Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, these struck “two Iraqi bases that hosted American and coalition troops”. In a statement confirming the operation, which followed the killing by the U.S. of Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, the IRGC warned that “all U.S. allies who give their bases to its terrorist army that any territory that in any way becomes the starting point of hostile and aggressive acts against the Islamic Republic of Iran will be targeted”. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif emphasised that “Iran took and concluded proportionate measures in self-defence under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens and senior officials were launched”. “We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression”, he added. President Trump’s initial response to the Iranian operation came by tweet, stating that “all is well”. View More 5 January 2020 Commenting on the possibility of an Iranian response for the killing by the U.S. of Iran’s Qods Force commander, Qassem Soleimani, President Trump asserted that “if they do anything there will be major retaliation… They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people, they’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites. It doesn’t work that way”. View More 5 January 2020 According to the Iraqi military, six rockets landed inside and near Baghdad’s Green Zone. View More 5 January 2020 The U.S.-led counter ISIS coalition announced that following “repeated rocket attacks over the last two months by elements of Kataeb Hizbollah… we are now fully committed to protecting the Iraqi bases that host Coalition troops. This has limited our capacity to conduct training with partners and to support their operations against Daesh [ISIS] and we have therefore paused these activities, subject to continuous review”. View More 5 January 2020 Following the killing by the U.S. of Iran’s Qods Force commander, Qassem Soleimani, along with Iraqi paramilitary officials, the Iraqi parliament passed a resolution urging the government to “work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, air space or water for any reason”. The prime minister’s office subsequently announced that “the relevant Iraqi officials in various government departments were preparing a memo outlining the legal and procedural steps required to implement parliament’s resolution on the withdrawal of foreign troops”. President Trump maintained that “if they do ask us to leave, if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis, we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame”. He further noted that “we have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that’s there. It cost billions of dollars to build. Long before my time. We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it”. View More 4 January 2020 A spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) confirmed that “two rocket attacks occurred near bases in Baghdad and Balad”. View More 4 January 2020 A spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) said that “the coalition did not conduct airstrikes near Camp Taji (north of Baghdad) in recent days”, following reports of airstrikes against Hashd forces. View More 3 January 2020 Referring to the killing by the U.S. of Iran’s IRGC Qods Force commander, Qassem Soleimani, a senior U.S. diplomat asserted that “this was a defensive strike that was taken and supported by very solid intelligence... This was strongly supported by everything that we were seeing that Soleimani was planning imminent attacks against American diplomats and our armed forces members in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and in the region”. Another senior U.S. official indicated that “my strong impression is that right now, everybody in his little foreign legion is scurrying for cover right now”. While noting that “we cannot promise that we have broken the circle of violence”, the official stressed that “if we do see an increase in violence, it probably will not be as devilishly ingenious”. View More 3 January 2020 Following the killing by the U.S. of Iran’s IRGC Qods Force commander, Qassem Soleimani, a U.S. official maintained that “we want to stay on in Iraq. We have an important mission there, the coalition. We just spoke with most of the key coalition members this morning, making that message to them… we are ready to talk with the Iranians. We’ve tried to do this in the past. That’s on the table”. View More 3 January 2020 The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a security alert asserting: “U.S. citizens should depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land. Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound, all public consular operations are suspended until further notice. U.S. citizens should not approach the Embassy”. View More 3 January 2020 The U.S. announced that Secretary of State Pompeo would “designate Asaeb Ahl al-Haq (AAH) – as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO)”. It further noted that Pompeo had “designated AAH and two of its leaders… as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT)”. Secretary Pompeo asserted that “AAH and its leaders are violent proxies of the Islamic Republic of Iran… acting on behalf of their masters in Tehran, they violence and terror to further the Iranian regime’s efforts to undermine Iraqi sovereignty”. View More 2 January 2020 The head of the IRGC's Qods force, Qasem Soleimani, was killed in a U.S. strike in Baghdad. The U.S. Department of Defense confirmed that "at the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani”, adding that "Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region". Iran confirmed Soleimani’s death, and the IRGC said that four other Qods force members along with five Iraqis, notably including a senior Hashd official, were also killed in the operation. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei subsequently asserted that "enemies should bear in mind that the Islamic Republic of Iran will take tough revenge on criminals over the martyrdom of General Soleimani". View More 2 January 2020 U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper stated that “over the last couple of months Iranian-backed Shiite militias have repeatedly attacked bases hosting American forces in Iraq… it is clear that these attacks are being directed by the Iranian regime, specifically IRGC leadership”. He added that 29 December strikes against Kataeb Hizbollah bases “were aimed at reducing KH’s ability to launch additional attacks… and to make it clear to Iran and Iranian-backed militias that the U.S. will not hesitate to defend our forces in the region”. Addressing “Iran and its proxy militias”, Esper asserted: “we will not accept continued attacks against our personnel and forces in the region. Attacks against us will be met with responses in the time, manner and place of our choosing. We urge the Iranian regime to end their malign activities”. He further urged U.S. “friends and allies to continue to work together to reduce Iran's destabilising influence so Iraq is governed by Iraqis without this interference in its internal affairs”. View More 1 January 2020 In a conversation with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi, Secretary of State Pompeo “condemned, in the strongest possible terms, the December 31 Iran-backed terrorist attack on U.S. Embassy Baghdad”. A U.S. readout further indicated that “Secretary Pompeo noted the measures the government of Iraq has taken to improve the security situation and stressed the government of Iraq’s obligation to prevent further attacks against our diplomatic mission”. View More 1 January 2020 In a statement, Iraqi President Barham Salih declared that “the attempt to storm the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is considered a violation of the international contexts and agreements by which the Iraqi government is bound. Peaceful protest is a legitimate right... However, the attack against the diplomatic missions accredited harms Iraq's interest and its international reputation. It is an attack on Iraq sovereignty before being on any other party”. Salih added that “any aggression or harassment of the foreign embassies and representatives is an act which will be strictly prevented by the security forces. The perpetrators will be held fully responsible”. View More 31 December 2019 The U.S. Secretary of Defense “authorised the deployment of an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) of the 82nd Airborne Division to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in response to recent events in Iraq”. According to the statement, “approximately 750 soldiers will deploy to the region immediately, and additional forces from the IRF are prepared to deploy over the next several days”. View More 31 December 2019 President Trump asserted that “Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the embassy, and so notified!” He also tweeted: “to those many millions of people in Iraq who want freedom and who don’t want to be dominated and controlled by Iran, this is your time!” Later in the day, Trump indicated that the facility “is, and has been for hours… safe”, adding that “Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facility. They will pay a very big price! This is not a warning, it is a threat”. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Iraq’s senior leadership and underscored that “the U.S. will protect and defend its people”. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper stated that “we have taken appropriate force protection actions to ensure the safety of American citizens, military personnel and diplomats in country, and to ensure our right of self-defence. We are sending additional forces to support our personnel at the embassy”. “We rely on host nation forces to assist in the protection of our personnel in country, and we call on the government of Iraq to fulfill its international responsibilities to do so”, he added. View More 30 December 2019 The U.S. Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, emphasised that 29 December U.S. strikes against Kataeb Hizbollah bases in Iraq and Syria constituted “a defensive action” against a group Hook characterised as “an Iranian-backed rogue militia”. Asserting that “we’ve already seen, just in the past two months alone, eleven attacks on bases inside Iraq that are hosting coalition forces”, Hook argued that “the last thing the U.S. is looking for is kinetic action in the Middle East… But we’ve also made clear that we will not tolerate attacks against U.S. citizens, our military or our partners and allies in the region”. He further assessed that “Iran is currently in a state of panicked aggression. The regime understands very clearly the kind of economic pressure they’re under, and they also know that it’s not sustainable. And so they are lashing out”. Another senior U.S. official noted with respect to the 29 December strikes that the targets “on the Syrian side of the border were, I think even more significant in many ways, although I’m not going to get into why”. View More 30 December 2019 A senior U.S. official indicated that “it’s been longstanding U.S. policy. That all Iranian-commanded forces – which would include, in our view, Kataeb Hizbollah – leave Syria”. The official further indicated that “we do see threat streams and threatening activities by all of these [Iran-supported] forces that are of concern to us from a force protection standpoint… we can respond not just in Iraq, but we can respond anywhere that we think it makes sense to us and to the interests and security of our partners and allies in dealing with this threat to the region”. View More 30 December 2019 In a conversation with the UN secretary-general, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed “the recent attacks in Iraq that led to the tragic death of an American citizen and put many other American lives at risk”. According to the U.S. readout of the conversation, “the Secretary reiterated that defensive actions [against five Kataeb Hizbollah bases in Iraq and Syria] taken by the U.S. in response were aimed at deterring Iran”. View More 30 December 2019 Referring to 29 December U.S. strikes against five Kataeb Hizbollah bases in Iraq and Syria, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo maintained that “this was a defensive action designed to protect American forces and American citizens in Iraq, and it was aimed also at deterring Iran. This was an Iranian-backed rogue militia acting to deny the Iraqi people their basic sovereignty. It’s Qasem Soleimani, it’s the ayatollah working to expand their terror campaign all around the world. They took a strike at an American facility. President Trump’s been pretty darn patient, and he’s made clear at the same time that when Americans’ lives were at risk we would respond”. “Our mission continues to try and get the Islamic Republic of Iran to behave like a normal nation”, Pompeo added. “We just want Iran to stop their terror campaign. We want them to agree that they won’t have nuclear weapons, that they won’t enrich uranium, a set of basic things”. View More 30 December 2019 Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi responded to U.S. strikes against Kataeb Hizbollah bases in Iraq and Syria by calling the operation “an unacceptable vicious assault that will have dangerous consequences”. Iraqi President Barham Saleh described the 29 December action, which followed a 27 December rocket attack against a military facility near Kirkuk, as “unacceptable and considered as an aggressive action and violation of Iraqi sovereignty”. The Iraqi Security Council underlined that the attack "violates the goals and principles for which the international coalition is formed… [and] pushes Iraq to review the relationship and security and political and legal work contexts in a manner that preserves the sovereignty and security of the country, protecting the lives of its children and promoting common interests”. View More 30 December 2019 In a statement following 29 December U.S. strikes against Kataeb Hizbollah bases in Iraq and Syria, the IRGC said the operation “was a violation of Iraq’s national sovereignty” and contended that “the Iraqi people and PMU [Popular Mobilisation Units] have the right to retaliate and respond to the recent great U.S. crime”. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson commented that “the U.S. has demonstrated its decisive support for terrorism and disregard for the independence and sovereignty of nations by launching these attacks”, adding that “it must accept the responsibility for the consequences of such illegal measure”. View More 29 December 2019 Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz asserted that the Pentagon's "announcement that the U.S. attacked five Kataeb Hizbollah targets in Iraq and Syria in response to the attack on the K1 base is a turning point in the regional response to Iran and its proxies. If Iran fails to understand the power of the U.S. they will be making a big mistake". In a conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo the following day, Prime Minister Netanyahu "commended… the important U.S. action against Iran and its proxies in the region". View More 29 December 2019 Following a 27 December rocket attack against an Iraqi military base near Kirkuk that hosts U.S. forces, the Pentagon confirmed that “U.S. forces have conducted precision defensive strikes against five Kataeb Hizbollah facilities in Iraq and Syria that will degrade Kataeb Hizbollah's ability to conduct future attacks against OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve) coalition forces”. Asserting that “KH has a strong linkage with Iran’s Qods force and has repeatedly received lethal aid and other support from Iran that it has used to attack OIR coalition forces”, a senior U.S. defence official underscored that “the U.S. and its coalition partners fully respect Iraqi sovereignty, and support a strong and independent Iraq. The U.S., however, will not be deterred from exercising its right of self-defence”. The statement further emphasised that “Iran and their Kataeb Hizbollah proxy forces must cease their attacks on U.S. and coalition forces, and respect Iraq's sovereignty, to prevent additional defensive actions by U.S. forces”. View More 28 December 2019 The U.S.-led counter-ISIS coalition announced that “one U.S. civilian contractor was killed and several U.S. service members and Iraqi personnel were wounded in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk” on 27 December. View More 25 December 2019 Israel’s military chief of staff assessed that “there is a possibility that we will face a limited confrontation with Iran and we are preparing for it”. He went on to assert that “we will not allow Iran to entrench itself in Syria, or in Iraq… Iraq is undergoing a civil war, when the Qods force is operating there on a daily basis, when the country itself has turned into an ungoverned area. Advanced weapons are being smuggled by the Qods force in Iraq on a monthly basis and we can’t allow that”. View More 19 December 2019 A senior U.S. diplomat met with senior Iraqi officials in Baghdad and “called for steps to protect protestors, journalists and civil society activists from assassination and violence at the behest of armed groups”, while expressing “America’s enduring commitment to a secure, stable and sovereign Iraq, free of external intervention”. According to an Iraqi readout of the conversation with President Salih, the president underlined that “the solutions to the current situation in Iraq should be in response to the Iraq's national decision and free from external interference”. View More 18 December 2019 Commenting on U.S. diplomatic staffing in Iraq, a senior U.S. official asserted that “the adjustments we’re making largely are based on the high level of security threats from individuals like Qasem Soleimani. We want to make sure that we’ve got the smallest target offered to them as possible, but one that – a team that is still capable of getting the mission done”. “That mission”, the official added, “is very much protecting and defending and trying to build Iraqi sovereignty so that people like Soleimani don’t have the run of the town that they currently have”. Asked whether “this move will send a wrong signal”, the official reiterated that “the protesters are telling us something very clearly… They don’t want foreign interference in their selection of their leadership and how their government runs. They want a positive partnership from us, and that’s what we’re offering”. Responding to a question on “who’s targeting the protesters”, the official said: “there’s a third – shadowy third party… It’s the Iranians… And it’s their proxies in Iraq”. View More 16 December 2019 Discussing rocket attacks against military bases in Iraq, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper indicated that “we would ask our Iraqi partners to take more proactive actions… to get that under control because it’s not good for anybody”. He further asserted: “my suspicion would be that Iran is behind these attacks, much like they're behind a lot of malign behaviour throughout the region, but it's hard to pin down”. “We need… [Iraq’s] help in terms of getting the security situation under control and stabilised, but we also still retain our right of self-defence”, Esper added. View More 15 December 2019 In a conversation with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi, U.S. Secretary of Defense Esper “called on our Iraqi partners to continue to assist in preventing attacks on U.S. and coalition personnel and facilities in the country”. According to a readout of the conversation from the prime minister’s office, Abdul Mahdi “expressed his concern for those developments, demanding of exerting the efforts all joined in it to prevent that escalation which it will threat all and any kind of decline government and the Iraqi State will encourage for escalation and chaos”. He further “warned that taking unilateral decisions will have negative reactions that are difficult to control and threaten the security, sovereignty and independence of Iraq”. View More 13 December 2019 In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asserted that “Iran’s proxies have recently conducted several attacks against bases where Iraqi Security Forces are co-located with U.S. and International Coalition personnel”, citing 9 December and 11 December rocket attacks at Baghdad International Airport. “The U.S. will continue to work hand-in-hand with our Iraqi partners”, Pompeo continued, adding that “we must also use this opportunity to remind Iran’s leaders that any attacks by them, or their proxies of any identity, that harm Americans, our allies or our interests will be met with a decisive U.S. response”. He further underscored that “Iran must respect the sovereignty of its neighbours and immediately cease its provision of lethal aid and support to third parties in Iraq and throughout the region”. Iran’s government spokesperson subsequently insisted that “the U.S. has provided no evidence for its false claim. Not even a witness… The unwarranted situation in Iraq where people are on the streets and ISIS is coming to power and the ambiguous conditions are caused by the Americans themselves”. View More 11 December 2019 Two rockets hit in the vicinity of Baghdad International Airport; no casualties were reported. View More 11 December 2019 The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo underlined that “responsibility for how the Government of Lebanon will be formed and shaped falls to the Lebanese people to demand Lebanese sovereignty, Lebanese prosperity, Lebanese freedom from influence, from outside entities. We have a designated terrorist organisation there, Hizbollah… I know that the people of Lebanon understand the risk that that presents to their freedom, their capacity to deliver for themselves. This is not an American proposition; it is the – a proposition of the Lebanese people”. “We do stand ready to do the things that the world can do to assist the Lebanese people of getting their economy righted, getting their government righted”, he added. On Iraq, Pompeo noted that “the Iraqi people want a sovereign, independent Iraq... we’re continuing our counterterrorism campaign in Iraq, and stand ready as the Iraqi government asks us to, to support the Iraqi people in ensuring that the influence from those who don’t want a sovereign, free, and independent Iraq don’t have their way inside of that country”. View More 9 December 2019 The Iraqi military confirmed that four rockets were fired at a military facility near Baghdad International Airport, injuring six. View More 8 December 2019 Prime Minister Netanyahu commented that “Iran is continuing its aggression in the Middle East and is even increasing it”. He further maintained that “there are growing indications that this murderous attack in Baghdad [against protesters on 7 December] was carried out by Shiite Iraqi militias on direct instruction from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. At this time, against this murderousness, the pressure on Iran must be increased”. Netanyahu went on to pledge that “with or without the countries of Europe, Israel will not allow Iran – at any stage – to develop nuclear weapons”. View More 8 December 2019 Airstrikes reportedly targeted “three Iranian-controlled weapons depots” near Al-Bukamal, close to the Iraq-Syria border. View More 7 December 2019 U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper noted that the “[we] continually assess the situation and make sure we have the right degree of forces in position to deter Iranian bad behaviour, and if necessary, to respond and respond forcefully in a way that they understand that we're serious about defending our friends, reassuring our allies and preventing them from misbehaving”. Asked whether he believed that “the threat from Iran is increasing”, Esper replied: “I think you could make that assessment given the effectiveness of the maximum pressure campaign, given what's happening in the streets of Iran these days… you see a regime increasingly under stress. I think we need to be prepared for any contingency”. He further maintained that “there have been reports in the public space about rockets being fired at American forces on bases in Iraq. So we've seen a little bit of an uptick there. And that's, again, another indicator for us of Iran reaching out”. “As they experience more stress, I need to be ensured that we have sufficient forces on the ground again, to reassure our allies help defend them, defend the international order and deter Iranian bad behavior”, Esper added. View More 6 December 2019 The U.S. Treasury Department “designated three leaders of Iran-backed militias in Iraq that opened fire on peaceful protests, killing dozens of innocent civilians” in addition to an Iraqi businessman whom it said was “bribing government officials and engaging in corruption at the expense of the Iraqi people”. A senior U.S. diplomat contended that “three of today’s designees… were directed by Iranian regime when they or the armed groups they lead committed serious human rights abuses”. “We will be doing further designations in the future”, he added, further explaining that “if you are perpetrating violence against protesters, regardless of whether you are in the government or outside the government, you’re at risk of being designated”. View More 6 December 2019 A senior U.S. diplomat remarked that “for several months, the Iraqi people have led a patriotic quest for genuine reform and transparency in government. The have gone to the streets to raise their voices for a just government with leaders who will put Iraq’s national interests first… Iraqis are fed up with economic stagnation, endemic corruption and mismanagement”. He added that “Iraqis have paid a steep and bloody price for the malign influence of Iranian regime. Tehran claims it is exporting ‘revolution’. It is increasingly clear to us and the people of the region, however, that the theocracy’s top export is corruption and repression”. The senior diplomat further maintained that “the U.S. government will work with anyone in the Iraqi government who is willing to put Iraqi interests first… But we see in the process of establishing a new government or determining who the next prime minister will be that Qasem Soleimani is in Baghdad working this issue. It seems to us that foreign terrorist leaders, or military leaders, should not be meeting with Iraqi political leaders to determine the next premier of Iraq”. “This is unorthodox and it is incredibly problematic, and it is a huge violation of Iraqi sovereignty”, he continued. View More 6 December 2019 A senior U.S. diplomat indicated that “there’s been great attention lately being paid to these reports about Iranian ballistic missiles being stored in Iraq… I think this is drawing greater attention as Iranian-backed militias are now shelling Iraq bases with American and Anti-ISIS coalition forces on them”. Referring to an incident the previous day at Balad air base the official assessed that “if past is prologue, I’d say there’s a good chance it was Iran that’s behind it”. Asked whether he was contending that “the maximum pressure campaign is a success because it has resulted in greater Iranian aggression and shooting down U.S. drones”, the diplomat responded by stressing that “the pressure campaign is working. They [ie, Iran] are clearly under fear and pressure, and they are lashing out… Things sometimes get worse before they get better in those terms”. View More 4 December 2019 Citing unnamed U.S. officials, media reports indicated that Iran was developing “a hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq”. View More 4 December 2019 A senior U.S. diplomat contended that “the demonstrations [in Iraq] are fueled by anger arising from the results of Iran’s destabilising influence. As recently as this weekend, Iran’s IRGC-QF (or IRGC Qod[s] force) commander, Qasem Soleimani… was widely reported to have been in Baghdad once again meeting with, threatening, and cajoling politicians. This is just the type of unacceptable interference Iraqis are protesting in the streets”. He added that “people are demanding an end to Iran’s mafioso rules, such as arming terrorist groups like Kataeb Hizbollah, calling the shots among political party bosses, dumping agricultural goods on Iraqi markets and peddling counterfeit or expired pharmaceuticals”. “Iraqis increasingly view Iran as having coopted and exploited Iraq’s political system, its economy and its security at the expense of the Iraqi people, and this has clearly made Iran nervous”, the official further asserted. He additionally noted that “we will not hesitate to use all the tools at our disposal, including designations under the Global Magnitsky Act, to sanction corrupt individuals who are stealing the public wealth of the Iraqi people and those killing and wounding peaceful protesters”. View More 4 December 2019 A senior U.S. defence official reported that there had been “indications… that potential Iranian aggression could occur”. “We’ve sent very clear and blunt signals to the Iranian government about the potential consequences of aggression”, he added. View More 4 December 2019 A facility near al-Bukamal that media reports described as Iran-linked was reportedly hit by airstrikes. Prime Minister Netanyahu, asked whether he had authorised the attack, responded: “I don’t talk about that”. View More 4 December 2019 Speaking alongside U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Prime Minister Netanyahu remarked that “we have been fortunate that President Trump has led a consistent policy of pressure against Iran. Iran is increasing its aggression as we speak even today in the region. They’re trying to have staging grounds against us and the region from Iran itself, from Iraq, from Syria, from Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen, and we are actively engaged in countering that aggression”. Netanyahu further maintained that “Iran’s aggression is growing, but its empire is tottering. And I say let’s make it totter even further”. Secretary Pompeo, citing unrest in Iraq, Lebanon and Iran, stated that “some of these are people that are seeking freedom and a reasonable way to live, and they recognise the threat that is posed by the kleptocrats that are running the Islamic Republic of Iran”. View More 3 December 2019 Five rockets hit a military facility in Anbar province that bases U.S. troops; there were no reported casualties. View More 2 December 2019 Referring to Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s resignation amidst nationwide protests, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo remarked that “he did so because the people were demanding freedom and the security forces had killed dozens and dozens of people. That’s due in large part to Iranian influence there. Pompeo further argued that “the Iraqi leaders [are] trying to push back against these Iranian militias who are denying sovereignty for the Iraqi people. All they really want is to have a free, independent, sovereign Iraq, and yet you’ve got Iranian arms and Iranian military driving inside of that country”. View More 2 December 2019 A senior U.S. diplomat indicated that “we want the Iraqis to get a government that is responsive to their legitimate demands – reform, anti-corruption. This is a process that should be handled by the Iraqis and managed by the Iraqis. We don’t have parameters for timing. We want to see an end to the violence”. He went on to maintain that “we have been a reliable partner to Iraq. I expect that we will continue to be a reliable partner, helping to build their capacity to defend themselves and to exert their sovereignty and to help defeat ISIS and… prevent a resurgence of ISIS in Iraqi territory. So, I would expect that we will continue to have that kind of relationship with the Iraqi government and also have economic investments in the country, et cetera, going forward”. Asked about attacks by Iraqi demonstrators on Iran’s Najaf consulate, the senior diplomat remarked that “generally speaking – and specifically speaking – the U.S. believes that – the inviolability of the diplomatic facilities”. View More 2 December 2019 Following Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s resignation amidst nationwide protests in Iraq, a senior U.S. diplomat contended that “Iraqis increasingly view Iran as having coopted and exploited Iraq’s political system, its economy and its security at the expense of the Iraqi people, and this has clearly made Iran nervous, so nervous that, once again, Qods force commander [Soleimani] and the Iranian regime’s chief shadow diplomat is… in Baghdad interfering in Iraqi politics”. He went on to maintain that “as Iraqi leaders consider options over the coming days to address the current crisis, their foremost consideration should be meeting the needs of the Iraqi people and rejecting and – the distorting influence Iran has exerted on the political process”. “We call on the government of Iraq to respect the rights of the Iraqi people and urge the government to investigate and hold accountable those who attempt to brutally silence peaceful protesters”, the official added. View More 1 December 2019 Prime Minister Netanyahu remarked that “in Tehran, in Baghdad, in Beirut, people are taking to the streets. They are being slaughtered by the hundreds, yet they continue to protest. The tyrants of Tehran shoot them to no avail”. “In Baghdad”, he continued, “Iran's cronies have killed hundreds of Iraqis… In Beirut, Hizbollah thugs attack peaceful demonstrators”. “What is driving these people to risk their lives and stand up to their oppressors?”, Netanyahu asked. “The answer is simple. They are fed up. They're fed up with corruption. They're fed up with failing economies. They're fed off with the siphoning off of their treasure and their lives to Iran's wars of aggression in the region”. View More 29 November 2019 A rocket landed inside Baghdad's Green Zone; there were no reported injuries or significant damage. View More 29 November 2019 U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated that “President Trump’s strategic effort certainly includes sanctions as an element of our efforts to make the [Iranian] leadership change their ways. But it is only one component, we think that has been an effective component, we think they are having to make very difficult choices about whether to feed their people, to provide medicine for their people or if they want to underwrite the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza or Hizbollah in Lebanon”. “We hope they will begin to make the right decision, we hope the people in Iraq will force them to make the right decision”, he added. Pompeo went on to elaborate that “our campaign has also been political and diplomatic, to get countries around the world to recognise Iran as the largest state sponsor of terrorism... We are trying to unite the world alongside us, including the Europeans, who have taken a very different approach on the JCPOA, and President Trump is working to ensure that the Islamic Republic of Iran knows that they cannot engage in an activity like they have without there being a cost”. He additionally referred to “an increase in our deterrence capabilities by our activity in the Strait of Hormuz” as well as military deployments and weapons sales to U.S. allies in the Gulf and stated: “we hope that the combination of those things will restore deterrence to a level that is satisfactory, and the leadership will understand that there is a cost to their malign activity wherever it takes place”. View More 29 November 2019 Amidst protests in Iraq, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi announced that he would resign. The parliament approved his resignation on 1 December. View More 27 November 2019 Amidst protests in Iraq, demonstrators set fire to Iran’s consulate in Najaf. In a statement, the Foreign Ministry of Iraq condemned the attack “in the strongest terms” and contended that “its purpose is clear; to harm the historical relations between Iraq and Iran and countries of the world whose missions are in Iraq”. The ministry further urged “demonstrators to be vigilant against those suspects who want to discredit demonstrations that call for reform”. On a phone call with his Iranian counterpart, Iraq’s foreign minister “expressed his regret for what happened”, while emphasising “Baghdad’s adherence to strategic relations with Tehran and its aspiration to strengthen bilateral relations by expanding the circle of cooperation to achieve common interests between the two countries; and serve the two friendly peoples”. View More 27 November 2019 The U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, met with his Iraqi counterpart in Baghdad. View More 27 November 2019 Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei maintained that “the domineering powers have always opposed the independence of nations and insulted them. In this regard, they never hesitate to express their intentions, as the Americans explicitly say they have entered the east of the Euphrates for Syrian oil. Or they say that they have entered the military bases in Iraq without permission, completely disregarding the government and capital of the country”. View More 26 November 2019 Commenting on violence during protests in Iraq, a senior U.S. official asserted that “we have called for restraint in the security apparatus and are calling for peaceful demonstrations, but there have been cases where there’s been excessive force used”. He went on to indicate that “we are continuing a process of investigation from our side to determine who’s responsible for some of the atrocities, and we will move ahead with designations on that front”. View More 26 November 2019 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo maintained that “our mission there [in Iraq] is largely a counterterrorism mission and that’s what our troops are on the ground for”. He further characterised Vice President Pence’s trip to Iraq as “an effort to try and help the Iraqi people stand up a free and independent and sovereign Iraq. That’s our goal for the Iraqi people, and we’re prepared to work with the Iraqi leadership… to try and deliver that on behalf of the Iraqis”. Pompeo went on to say that “we have no qualms in talking about the fact that we think the Iranian presence there is harmful to that, decreases the risk that the Iraqi people can have the sovereignty that they so richly deserve, and we’re confident that the Iraqi leadership wants the same thing that we’re helping them work towards”. View More 24 November 2019 Prime Minister Netanyahu asserted that “Iran’s aggression in our region, and against us, continues. We are taking all necessary actions to prevent Iran from entrenching here in our region. This includes the activity necessary to thwart the transfer of lethal weaponry from Iran to Syria, whether by air or overland”. “We will also take action to thwart Iran's effort to turn Iraq and Yemen into bases for launching rockets and missiles against the State of Israel”, he added. Citing remarks by a senior U.S. defence official who had indicated that “it is very possible they [the Iranians] will attack again”, Netanyahu stated that “I can confirm that and I can also confirm to you that we are continuing our plans to thwart this aggression by various means”. View More 23 November 2019 During a visit to Iraq, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence stressed that “we continue to be concerned about the malign influence of Iran across Iraq… I spoke with Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi about that, as well as the leadership here in the Kurdish region government, just to make sure they understand that our commitment is to the Iraqi people, but we want to see an Iraq that is free of the malign influence of Iran and is also respecting the rights and the voices of all of its people”. View More 21 November 2019 Israel’s foreign minister contended that “now is the time for the world, led by the U.S., to have an effective military threat against the Iranian regime, if it will continue its nuclear program”. He added that “we will strike at whomever threatens us… That is what we have always done, and what we will continue to do in the future”. Commenting on the U.S. maximum pressure policy, the foreign minister indicated that “we see the demonstrations in Iraq, Lebanon and also in Iran, and it is clear that the pressure is working… the public in the Arab states and in Iran itself are rising against Iran’s brutal oppression”. He further underscored that “we have no conflict with the Gulf states, and we have common interests in the field of security against the Iranian threat”.