RNA - The Iraqi Foreign Ministry has summoned the US and British ambassadors to Baghdad over a string of airstrikes carried out by the United States against multiple locations of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi.
“Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali al-Hakim held an emergency meeting in which the ministry's undersecretaries, advisors, and official spokesman discussed the measures regarding the recent American aggression,” the ministry’s spokesman Ahmed al-Sahaf said in a statement published on the official Twitter page of the ministry on Friday.
The Foreign Minister @maalhakim held an emergency meeting in which the Ministry’s Undersecretaries, Advisors,and Official Spokesman attend to discuss measures regarding the recent U.S aggression, and directed the summoning the Ambassadors of the United States and UK to #Baghdad. pic.twitter.com/biiyP3sJTJ
— د. احمد الصحاف | Dr. Ahmad Al-Sahaf (@DrAhmedalshaf) March 13, 2020
He added the foreign minister “ordered the summoning of the United States and British ambassadors to Baghdad (Matthew H. Tueller and Stephen Hickey respectively).”
President Barham Salih also censured the US airstrikes in Iraq, which killed at least one civilian and five security personnel early on Friday.
“The Presidency of the Republic (of Iraq) condemns the foreign bombardment that targeted several locations inside Iraq, including Karbala airport which is under construction, and led to the martyrdom and wounding of members of the Iraqi security forces and civilians,” Salih said in a statement published on the official Twitter page of the presidency on Friday.
He added, “The Presidency of the Republic considers this bombing a violation of the national sovereignty, and stresses that improvement of security conditions could be achieved through supporting the Iraqi government to carry out its duties, enhance its capabilities, enforce law, protect sovereignty and prevent the transformation of its territories into a proxy war zone.”
“The continuous violations, to which Iraq is exposed, are a systematic and dangerous weakening of its capabilities and prestige, in conjunction with a stage in which Iraq faces grave and unprecedented challenges politically, economically, financially and in security and heath sectors. Such risks, if they continue, would plunge Iraq into a state of power vacuum and chaos,” the Iraqi president noted.
Salih then called on “the international community to support Iraq in its endeavor, and respect it sovereignty as well as its independent national decisions.”
‘No solution other than exit of foreign forces from Iraq’
Separately, the Fatah (Conquest) alliance, led by Badr Organization Secretary General Hadi al-Ameri, denounced the US airstrikes, saying, “There is no solution except for the departure of foreign forces from Iraq.”
“At today’s dawn, US aircraft launched a new act of aggression, targeting the headquarters and military centers of the Popular Mobilization Units, the Iraqi army and emergency forces. The fresh American onslaught targeted a civilian airport under construction in the holy city of Karbala as well,” the alliance said in a statement carried by Iraq’s Arabic-language al-Sumaria television network on Friday.
The statement added, “The attack resulted in severe damage to the civilian and military installations of Iraq. This aggression has clearly indicated repeated US violations against Iraq, its people and armed forces. The aggression shows that US military and political leadership intentionally strike civilian targets as part of their policy of destruction and sabotage of Iraq, its nation and its emerging political experience.”
Iraqi government urged to protect sovereignty
Furthermore, senior Iraqi cleric Ammar al-Hakim condemned the US airstrikes, and described them as a violation of the country’s sovereignty.
“We condemn the violation of foreign fighter jets against the sovereignty of Iraq, and the bombing of the headquarters of Popular Mobilization Units as well as security forces in holy Karbala, Babil, Wasit, Salahuddin and other civilian facilities,” the leader of the National Wisdom Movement said in a post published on his Twitter page.
He added, “We are at a time when we are in favor of Iraq’s transformation into an open arena and political engagement. We call on the Iraqi government to take its right and appropriate role to preserve the prestige of the country and protect its sovereignty against any violation.”
Sadr calls on all Iraqis to exercise restraint
Additionally, influential Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called on people from all walks of life to show restraint in the wake of the US airstrikes.
“In the midst of great misfortunes which are affecting the whole world, and the Iraqi people in particular, Iraq must be spared from more tensions and conflicts. I call for restraint and peace in our beloved Iraq, and avoidance of violence,” he said in a post published on his Twitter page on Friday.
“We are not the proponents of making peace with occupiers. Nevertheless, we take into account the circumstances surrounding the proud Iraqi nation, who ask God to save them from both occupiers and the corrupt.”
Furthermore, the custodianship of the Shrine of Imam Hussein (PBUH) in Karbala plans to file a lawsuit at international courts against the United States over its airstrikes on the airport under construction there.
“The custodianship will refer to competent international courts in order to lodge a lawsuit concerning the missile attack early on Friday against Karbala International Airport, which is among main civilian sites in Iraq,” Afzal al-Shami, a spokesman for the office, said on Friday.
He added, “The losses sustained include the martyrdom of one of the employees, huge material damage, and destruction of ten vehicles belonging to the company operating the airport.”
Later on Friday, Sahaf said Baghdad will complain through two identical letters to the United Nations and the Security Council about US air raids on Iraqi military positions.
Foreign Ministry @Iraqimofa Official Spokesman: Iraq will complain through two identical letters to the United Nations and the Security Council regarding the assault of #US forces on government headquarters.
— د. احمد الصحاف | Dr. Ahmad Al-Sahaf (@DrAhmedalshaf) March 13, 2020
The Iraqi Interior Ministry's Security Media Cell announced in a statement that “at 01:15 local time on Thursday (2215 Wednesday) an American aerial bombardment struck headquarters of Hashd al-Sha’abi, emergency regiments as well as commandos from the 19th Division of the army.”
The statement added that the airstrikes targeted positions in Jurf al-Nasr town, located about 60 kilometers southwest of the capital Baghdad, Musayyib town in the central province of Babil, the holy shrine city of Najaf as well as the ancient central city of Alexandria.
The US military did not estimate how many people in Iraq may have been killed in the strikes, which officials said were carried out by piloted aircraft.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, in a Pentagon statement detailing the strikes, cautioned that the United States was prepared to respond again, if needed.
“We will take any action necessary to protect our forces in Iraq and the region,” Esper said.
Separately, an Iraqi official said an airstrike had hit an airport under construction in Karbala, located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southwest of Baghdad.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Arabic-language al-Sumaria television network on Friday that US military aircraft fired three missiles at the airport building, which is located in al-Haidariya district and near the border with neighboring Najaf province.
He added that the air raid killed a worker, and left great material damage at the site.
Meanwhile, CNN, quoting a US military official, reported that the airstrikes were carried out against five weapons storage facilities.
The early Friday US airstrikes were carried out about 24 hours after at least 18 PMU fighters were killed in air raids targeting an area southeast of the city of al-Bukamal in eastern Syria and near the border with Iraq.
That deadly attack was conducted hours after the US-led military coalition purportedly fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group announced that three of its personnel - two Americans and one Briton - had been killed in a rocket attack on Iraq's Taji military camp, located some 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) north of Baghdad.
Anti-American sentiment has been running high in Iraq following the assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), along with the deputy head of the PMU, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and their companions in a US airstrike authorized by President Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport on January 3.