Blinken says attacks on US troops in Iraq 'totally unacceptable'

US Secretary of State made unannounced visit to Iraq late on Sunday

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waits to board a helicopter to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani. AP
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Iran-backed militias on Sunday that America would take every step necessary to protect its troops in Iraq and Syria, where they have come under repeated attacks in recent weeks.

During an unexpected trip to Baghdad on Sunday as part of a Middle East tour, Mr Blinken also said the US is working to ensure the Israel-Gaza war does not spread.

His visit comes as Iran-backed militias have increased attacks against US forces stationed in Iraq and Syria since Israel's military campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which started after militants attacked Israel on October 7.

The Pentagon says Iran-backed militias have conducted dozens of rocket and drone attacks on US and coalition troops in Iraq and Syria in recent weeks.

"I made very clear that attacks or threats coming from militias that are aligned with Iran are totally unacceptable, and we will take every necessary step to protect our people," Mr Blinken said, according to AFP.

US forces shot down another one-way attack drone on Sunday that was targeting American and coalition troops near their base in Tel Baider, Syria, a US official told AP.

There was no information immediately available on the origin of the attack drone, but it marked at least the 32nd attack on US and coalition military bases in Iraq and Syria since October 17.

There have been at least 17 attacks in Iraq and 15 in Syria. At least 21 troops have been injured by the attacks but all have returned to duty, the Pentagon said.

After an earlier visit to the occupied West Bank, Mr Blinken landed in Baghdad on Sunday evening for his first visit in office and held talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani.

Palestinian views, voices and aspirations must be “at the centre” of conversations about the future of Gaza, Mr Blinken told reporters in Baghdad.

Washington wants to prevent a wider regional conflict and has increased diplomacy with regional countries whose populations have been angered by Israel's assault on Gaza.

Mr Blinken landed at Baghdad’s international airport, donned a bullet-proof vest and travelled by Black Hawk helicopter to the Green Zone, a remnant of the US occupation of Iraq after its 2003 invasion.

He will travel to Turkey later on Sunday, where protests were already under way.

Updated: November 05, 2023, 9:57 PM