A rocket attack on an Iraqi Base, where U.S. soldiers fighting the Islamic state are housed, has led to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s bold statement: The United States would retaliate in self-defence if attacked. His statement was made on Monday, following the attack with Pompeo and Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi having spoken on Sunday. Their meeting fell a day after both American and Iraqi troops were wounded in the rocket attack, the second significant rocket attack to take place on a base north of Baghdad in the past week. Three American troops were wounded, as well as several Iraqi soldiers. U.S. and Iraqi officials have predicted that this affront will lead to an increased cycle of attacks.
According to a statement from State Department Spokeswoman, Morgan Orgatus, Pompeo further asserted that Iraq’s government should defend the U.S.-led coalition and support their fight against the Islamic state. The statement from the Spokeswoman read, “Secretary Pompeo underscored that the groups responsible for these attacks must be held accountable. Secretary Pompeo noted that America will not tolerate attacks and threats to American lives and will take additional action as necessary in self-defence”. According to Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, 33 Katyusha rockets were launched near a section of the Taji base in Iraq on Monday. Their military located seven rocket launchers and 24 unused rockets in the Abu Izam area, located nearby. Following the attack, several Iraqi air defence servicemen were critically wounded, as noted by the Iraqi military, and restated by the Pentagon. Of the three American soldiers wounded in the attack, two have serious injuries and are being treated at a military hospital in Baghdad.
Though the agitation prompting these attacks by the Islamic State leads back to the complicated history between Iran and the United States, it is Iraq that has taken the brunt of this storied antagonism. Though U.S. interference in Iran and Iraq has resulted in further violence on Iraqi soil, the U.S. secretary of state has placed responsibility on Iraq, not the U.S., to retaliate. These attacks on Iraqi soil are also not unprecedented, as paramilitary groups backed by Iran have been responsible for shelled Iraqi bases for some time now. The areas shelled tend to either house U.S. forces or the U.S. embassy. In retaliation for these attacks, the United States has led and conducted several strikes. These strikes, leading back to January, within Iraq, have resulted in the deaths of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Kataib Hezbollah founder Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Pompeo’s warning to Iraq to take the brunt of the defensive responsibilities, to defend U.S. troops above all else, is not without a rather contradictory history, one in which the U.S. military has not done the same for Iraq. The measures Pompeo threatened to take if Iraq did not respond accordingly were never stated. One can only assume those measures might result in even more anguish on Iraqi soil. Chaos and violence in a country marked by it, in our contemporary lens, could be a lapse in a collective moral compass.
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