Iraq: government vows to protect diplomatic missions in the country

Ambassadors of 25 countries express concern about targeting of diplomats

French President Emmanuel Macron (L), mask-clad due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, meets with Iraq's Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi (R) in the capital Baghdad on September 2, 2020.   / AFP / POOL / GONZALO FUENTES
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Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi vowed on Wednesday to protect diplomatic missions stationed in the country after Washington threatened to close its embassy in Baghdad following an increase in attacks on US targets.

In the space of just two months 40 attacks have taken place targeting not only the embassy and military bases, but also the supply convoys of Iraqi contractors for Washington and its allies.

Baghdad said it is “not happy” with a “dangerous” threat made by the US to pull its troops and diplomats out of Iraq.

Officials fear that a US pull out could turn their country into a battle zone.

Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said it would lead "to further pullouts" by members of the US-led coalition fighting ISIS, which would be "dangerous, because the group threatens not only Iraq but the whole region."

In recent months, rockets have repeatedly been propelled across the Tigris in attacks on the heavily fortified US and foreign diplomatic compound.

“The government will deal with outlaws and will protect its guests,” Mr Al Kadhimi said during a meeting with 25 ambassadors and Charges d'Affaires, who asked for an audience with the prime minister on Wednesday to discuss the security of their diplomatic missions.

Mr Al Kadhimi reassured the diplomats that his government will “impose the rule of law and protect all diplomatic missions in Iraq,” reiterating that those who attack diplomatic missions only “seek to destabilise the country and harm its international relations.”

During the meeting, the ambassadors expressed "deep concerns at the rise in number and sophistication of attacks against western diplomatic presence in Iraq, including rockets and IED attacks,” a statement by the ambassadors said.

Washington blames Iran-backed militias for the growing number attacks on US targets, which have been occurring on a near-weekly basis for months, and for shelling Iraqi bases housing international troops, including many of the 5,000 US soldiers currently stationed in Iraq.

It is not only the US that has been attacked. A British diplomatic vehicle hit a roadside bomb on the way to Baghdad airport this month. A UN convoy was also attacked recently.

“We noted that these attacks endanger not only foreign embassies but also Iraqis, as evidenced by the tragic death of a family near Baghdad International Airport following a rocket attack on Monday,” the ambassadors said in the statement.

Mr Al Kadhimi said that “state security institutions are determined to end these acts, and have begun to take the necessary action to achieve this.”

The ambassadors welcomed the steps taken by the government to address their concerns, which include investigations, security operations, and the enhancement of airport security.