Iraqi politicians blame government for US-Iran escalation

Iranian general killed in US strike on Friday felt 'safe and at home' due to corruption and chaos

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Several Iraqi politicians held the government accountable after a US drone strike killed Iranian general Qassem Suleimani at Baghdad airport on Friday, saying it had let US-Iran tensions escalate on Iraqi soil while allowing the powerful commander to feel "at home” in the country.

Suleimani headed the Quds Force, the foreign operations branch of of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, and was a regular visitor to the Iraqi capital. His latest visit came just days after members and supporters of Iran-backed Iraqi militias besieged the US Embassy in the capital.

The attack was prompted by US air strikes on the Kataib Hezbollah militia after a rocket fired at a base in northern Iraq killed a US contractor. Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis, the head of the Iran-backed militia, was also killed in Friday's strike.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Suleimani was causing “trouble” in Iraq and Syria and was planning attacks on US diplomats and troops in Iraq and in the region.

"Suleimani felt safe and at home in Iraq. He didn't even have a bodyguard," Iraqi MP Jaber Al Jaberi told The National.

Iran and its supporters in Iraq, who are now calling for an end to the American presence in Iraq, never anticipated the US would take a strong stance against them, he said.

“People are reacting in emotional ways as per usual," Mr Al Jaberi said. "Nobody thinks of the consequences and when faced, their answer is ‘I don’t care’.”

Parliament is scheduled to meet on Saturday to discuss the future of US troops in the country, but MP Sarkwat Shams said the government should take responsibility for making the decision.

"Prime Minister Adeil Abdul Mahdi should call for a national security meeting rather than ask parliament to hold a session," said Mr Shams.

"Parliament can't fill the vacuum created by the government."

Ali Al Bayati, a member of the semi-official Human Rights Commission, said that it was in Iraq's own interest, as a country whose institutional structure was still weak, to stay away from regional and international conflicts and be a source of mediation and peace.

"What we've seen today is a natural result of corruption, which has left no Iraqi sovereignty worth mentioning," Mr Al Bayati told The National.

While there was no official statement from the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil, a member of the Kurdish legislature said Baghdad needed to deal with the situation with caution as the attack happened on its soil.

“For some time both sides have been keeping away from direct confrontation. The latest incident might bring further instability to Iraq,” said the official, who asked not to be identified.

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