US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iraq's prime minister on Sunday that the United States will retaliate to further rocket attacks following strikes on a base housing American and international soldiers helping in the fight against ISIS.
Mr Pompeo spoke to Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Sunday, a day after three American troops and several Iraqi forces were wounded in the second major rocket attack in the past week on the same Iraqi base north of Baghdad, US and Iraqi officials said. The move raised the stakes in the escalating cycle of attacks and reprisals between the US and Iran-backed Iraqi militias just days after two American and a British soldier were killed in similar rocket fire.
He said Iraq's government should defend the US-led coalition helping it fight ISIS, according to the statement from State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus, following criticism from Iraqi officials.
"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," she said.
Iraq protested against the US retaliatory strikes and said members of its security forces were among the dead on Friday.
Baghdad is making a complaint to the UN about the incident and also summoned the British and American ambassadors for an explanation.
Before the US retaliation on Friday, Mr Pompeo spoke with UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and the pair "underscored that those responsible for the attacks must be held accountable."
The Iraqi military said on Saturday that neither the US nor other foreign forces should use the latest attack as an excuse to take military action without Baghdad’s approval.
It said Iraq should hasten to implement a parliamentary resolution expelling foreign troops.
On Saturday's incident, Iraq's Joint Operations Command said 33 Katyusha rockets were launched near a section of the Taji base which houses US-led coalition troops. It added that the military found seven rocket launchers and 24 unused rockets in the nearby Abu Izam area.
The Iraqi military said several Iraqi air defence servicemen were critically wounded. Two of the three wounded US troops are seriously injured and are being treated at a military hospital in Baghdad, the Pentagon said.
Some 5,200 American troops are based in Iraq as part of the US-led coalition helping local troops root out the remnants of ISIS.
Longstanding antagonism between the United States and Iran has mostly played out on Iraqi soil in recent months.
Iranian-backed paramilitary groups have regularly rocketed and shelled bases in Iraq which host US forces and the area around the US Embassy in Baghdad.
The United States has, in turn, conducted several strikes inside Iraq, killing top Iranian general Qassem Suleimani and Kataib Hezbollah founder Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis in January.
Top US military and civilian officials had long expressed frustration that Iraq's government was not doing enough to prevent rocket attacks targeting US troops and diplomats.