More than 2,000 U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq this month, the commander of U.S. Central Command said Wednesday. “In recognition of the great progress the Iraqi forces have made and in consultation and coordination with the Government of Iraq and our coalition partners, the United States has decided to reduce our troop presence in Iraq from about 5,200 to 3,000 troops during the month of September,” said Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie.
The U.S. launched airstrikes on weapons storage facilities in Iraq in retaliation for a rocket attack that killed two U.S. service members and a British soldier, the Defense Department said Thursday. Fourteen other people were injured in the rocket attack Wednesday evening on Camp Taji, an Iraqi base north of Baghdad, the Pentagon said Thursday. Five were described as being in “urgent” condition.
One British and two American personnel were killed and about a dozen people were wounded when 18 small rockets hit Iraq’s Taji military camp north of Baghdad on Wednesday, U.S. officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. Any indication that Iran-backed militia were responsible could spark a new round of confrontation between the United States and Iran.
At least three rockets struck the US embassy in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on Sunday. At least three people were injured, security sources told Reuters. This would be the first time in years that staff have been hurt in such attacks. No group has claimed responsibility but the US has blamed Iran-backed military factions in Iraq in the past.
Iraq’s top Shi’ite Muslim cleric on Friday condemned the U.S.-Iranian military confrontation taking place on Iraqi soil, saying it risked plunging the war-ravaged country and the wider Middle East into deeper conflict. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said attacks by both sides inside Iraq this month showed blatant disregard for its sovereignty and its people stood to suffer most from Washington and Tehran’s conflict.
Dozens of people stormed the compound of the United States embassy in Iraq on Tuesday in response to American airstrikes that killed dozens of fighters from an Iran-backed militia group. American fighter jets on Sunday bombed weapons depots in Iraq and Syria that the U.S. said were linked with a group called Kataeb Hezbollah, which it blames for attacks on coalition bases in recent months.
Iraqi security forces killed at least 14 people in the Shi’ite holy city of Kerbala overnight after opening fire on protesters, medical and security sources said, in a return to tactics denounced by the government’s own internal inquiry. Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets this week in a second wave of protests against Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government and a political elite they say are corrupt and out of touch.
Barham Salih was elected as the new president of Iraq on Tuesday by the parliament ending months of deadlock following the inconclusive national election in May. British-educated Kurdish politician Salih named Shi’ite Adel Abdul Mahdi as the prime minister-delegate. Salih is a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
A storage site holding half of Baghdad’s ballot boxes from Iraq’s parliamentary elections in May caught on fire on Sunday days after parliament called for a nationwide recount. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the fire was a plot to harm Iraq’s democratic process. It is unclear whether voting papers were destroyed.
The Iraqi firebrand militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr has emerged as the surprise frontrunner in Iraq’s national elections after winning more seats than US-backed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Sadr is known for his anti-American campaigns and populist appeal to Iraq’s young and poor. Sadr’s win could change Iraq’s relations with powers like the US and Iran.