Pompeo: US ‘happy’ Iraq doing more to protect embassy
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington is pleased the Iraqi government has taken steps to improve security at diplomatic missions and Western interests that have come under attack by Iranian-backed militias, but questioned the militias’ intentions.
“As for Iraq, it’s like every place in the world, responsible to do everything that they can to make sure that diplomats and others who serve under chief-of-mission authority around the world are operating in a safe and secure environment. We are happy that the Iraqis are doing more to provide increased security for our team on the ground there,” Pompeo said in a press conference on Wednesday in response to a question about a ceasefire announced on Sunday by Kataib Hezbollah.
Iranian-backed militia groups agreed to suspend rocket and IED (improvised explosive device) attacks on American targets in Iraq on condition the United States withdraw from the country. “The factions have presented a conditional ceasefire,” Kataib Hezbollah spokesperson Mohammed Mohi told Reuters.
But he threatened to renew activities if the US did not withdraw from Iraq.
The ceasefire came on the heels of a threat from Washington to close its embassy in Baghdad if the attacks did not stop, a move that sparked fears within the Iraqi government. Iraq will plunge into “direct economic collapse” if the US follows through on that threat, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said.
Pompeo did not reveal if they were still considering closing the embassy, but expressed doubt about the militias’ intentions.
“We have a rogue set of militias who have now promised not to violate the Iraqi people’s sovereignty and to take aim at US diplomats serving there that are designed to help the Iraqi people,” he said. “Our mission is clear. We’ve been there to help build a sovereign, independent, free Iraq, with a capable economy, capable set of resources. It’s what the Iraqi people want… I think the Iraqi people understand who’s the force for good in the region.”
There have been no confirmed rocket attacks on Baghdad’s diplomatic zone since the ceasefire was announced. Source