Missile Attack Hits U.S. Embassy in Baghdad

Iraqi counter-terrorism forces stand guard in front of the US embassy in the capital Baghdad on January 2, 2020. - The US embassy siege by pro-Iran protesters in Baghdad lasted just over a day, but analysts warn it could have lasting implications for Iraq's complex security sector and diplomatic ties. …
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images

A barrage of rocket fire targeted Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone on Sunday, hitting part of the U.S. embassy complex in that country. Saudi Arabia’s al-Arabiya news agency noted that the American compound “has been regularly hit by rockets in recent months.”

Both the American and Iraqi governments have confirmed a rocket attack on the complex but offered little information regarding the attack. No country or non-state actor has taken responsibility for this round of attacks.

No reports of any deaths have surfaced and estimates as to the wounded range from one to three people. Early reports do not specify the extent of the physical damage to the compound.

CNN and the Agence France-Presse (AFP) both reported that the facility hit by the rocket fire was a dining area or cafe, both citing unnamed sources. AFP’s source claimed that five Katyusha rockets fell in the Green Zone – a highly secure neighborhood in the Iraqi capital that houses most foreign embassies and other important government buildings – and appeared to target the U.S. embassy, and as many as three may have landed. Iraq’s al-Sumaria News reported that one rocket hit the embassy compound.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, who resigned months ago but has not organized elections and appears to show no signs of leaving, issued a statement confirming and condemning the attack, and specifically confirming anonymous reports that rockets hit the U.S. embassy compound. He did not offer any suggestions regarding who could have organized the attack, nor did he suggest Iraq had arrested anyone in response to the rockets.

“We censure the continuation of these criminal and illegal acts, which weaken the state, violate its sovereignty, and the sanctity of diplomatic missions on its soil,” Abdul-Mahdi’s statement read, according to the Kurdish outlet Rudaw. “The continuation of individual, irresponsible behavior will cause the entire country to suffer consequences and dangerous ramifications, harming the supreme interests of the country and its relation with its friends, which might turn Iraq into a battlefield.”

Abdul-Mahdi added that he had ordered Iraqi law enforcement to “investigate” the attack, suggesting authorities did not know who was responsible, and vowed to work to “prevent a repeat of targeting the American Embassy.”
“We have commanded our forces to deploy, search, and investigate to prevent the recurrence of such attacks, and arrest those who fired these missiles in order to obtain its punishment before the judiciary,” Iraq’s al-Sumaria quoted the prime minister as saying.

The State Department confirmed the attack in a short statement: “We call on the Government of Iraq to fulfill its obligations to protect our diplomatic facilities.”

Al-Arabiya reported that sources in Baghdad had noticed American aircraft landing outside of the compound, suggesting an influx of personnel to respond to the attack. The news agency did not offer any more information at press time.

Both al-Arabiya and Rudaw noted a growing number of attacks on the embassy, most prominently the attack in late December by a mob of largely pro-Iran Shiite militants who attempted to storm it. Outside of some vandalism and graffiti, the mob attack failed to produce any injuries. President Donald Trump nonetheless responded to the attack with an airstrike against Major General Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force. The mob had written “Soleimani is our commander” on the side of the embassy in spray-paint. The Quds Force is Iran’s external terrorism vehicle. Under Soleimani, the force increasingly used roadside bombs and improvised explosives to kill and injure American soldiers in Iraq.

While members of the mob outside of the embassy largely identified themselves or did not bother to disguise their faces, the current rocket attack does not at press time have a responsible party to its name. The rockets fell at the tail end of a particularly turbulent weekend in the capital, however, as thousands took the streets to protest external intervention in the country. Most protested the United States, but Iran has increasingly become a target of popular ire due to its expansion of colonialist policies in Iraq.

On Friday, Shiite nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr organized a crowd of allegedly “tens of thousands” for his “Million Man March” against America, urging Baghdad to move to return U.S. troops home. The protest was largely peaceful and al-Sadr has refused to back explicitly anti-Iran and anti-Iraqi government protests.

Iraqi police confirmed the death of a protester – though conflicting reports say at least two died – on Sunday and over 100 wounded while protesting in the capital and several other major cities nationwide, attempting to stage a sit-in as police moved to clear the crowds.

“Iraqi security forces fired teargas and live bullets in clashes with protesters angered by high-level corruption who resisted with stones and petrol bombs,” Reuters reported. These protests, unlike Friday’s were targeted against both Iraqi politicians and the Iranian influences the protesters believe they have emboldened to colonize the county.

Al-Sadr canceled a protest organized for Sunday specifically against the U.S. embassy, allegedly to “avoid internal strife.”

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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