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Pompeo warns Iran over attacks by ‘proxies’ in Iraq

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks. (Michael Gross/Zuma Press/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned Iran of a “decisive” response if U.S. interests are harmed in Iraq following rocket attacks on bases used by U.S. troops.

In a statement on December 13, Pompeo accused Iran’s “proxies” of conducting “several attacks against bases where Iraqi Security Forces are co-located with U.S. and International Coalition personnel” involved in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.

The statement cited a December 9 attack against an Iraqi facility located on the Baghdad International Airport compound, which it said wounded five Iraqi soldiers, including two critically.

It was followed by another rocket attack on the airport on December 11, it added, without providing further details.

Iran has gained growing influence in neighboring Iraq, with which it shares a Shi’ite majority, following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that brought down Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdel-Mahdi resigned two weeks ago following two months of demonstrations directed mainly at Iraq’s political leaders, but many of those taking part have also expressed anger at Iran’s influence over Iraq’s internal affairs.

Pompeo warned Iran’s leaders that “any attacks by them, or their proxies of any identity, that harm Americans, our allies, or our interests will be answered with a decisive U.S. response.”

“Iran must respect the sovereignty of its neighbors and immediately cease its provision of lethal aid and support to third parties in Iraq and throughout the region,” he said.

In a study released by the Pentagon last month, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency accused Iran of using a network of “militant partners and proxies,” including Shi’ite militias in Iraq, to enable it to advance its interests in the Middle East.

The study noted that Iran remained “implacably opposed to the United States and its presence in the Middle East.”

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, along with its regional allies Saudi Arabia and Israel, has been trying to counter Tehran’s influence across the region, including through sanctions.