US Bracing for Fresh Attacks on Troops in Iraq as Soleimani Assassination Anniversary Nears
17:28 GMT 17.12.2021 (Updated: 18:13 GMT 17.12.2021)
The US assassinated Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad in January 2020 after claiming that he was behind a deadly rocket attack against US troops. Iraqi officials later concluded that Daesh (ISIS)* was likely behind the attacks, and said that Soleimani was in Baghdad on a peace mission.
The United States is bracing for possible revenge attacks against US forces in Iraq on the upcoming second anniversary of Qasem Soleimani's killing, a senior administration official has said.
"Since July we've had about five months of calm, the longest period of calm we've had in Iraq I think in three years. We're looking for that to continue but of course we very much anticipate heading into the first part of next year...there's the anniversary of the Soleimani strike, there's Iraq's government formation process and a few other milestones," the official said in a conference call Friday.
"Some of these attacks might start up again but we of course [are] ready for that and prepared," the official added.
Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy chairman of the Baghdad-allied Popular Mobilization Committee militias formed to fight Daesh in 2014, were killed in a US drone strike at the Baghdad on 3 January 2020. Then-president Donald Trump ordered the attack on Soleimani after aides told him that the Iran commander was responsible for an Iraqi Shia militia group's deadly rocket attack on a Kirkuk military base housing US troops and mercenaries in December 2019, and the attempted storming of the US Embassy in Baghdad on New Year's Eve that year.
19 October 2021, 19:24 GMT
Iraq's military and intelligence community later concluded
that Daesh, not the Iraqi militia supporting by the Revolutionary Guard, was likely responsible for the Kirkuk attack. Trump ignored these findings, and continued to brag
about "taking out" Soleimani long after leaving office, recently suggesting that the commander was "bigger by many, many times" than al-Qaeda* leader Osama bin Laden.
Trump didn't specify what he meant by "bigger." As the chief of the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force - an elite unit responsible for Iranian military operations abroad, Soleimani worked extensively with the Iraqi and Syrian militaries, Kurdish militias and even the US (indirectly) in the the 2014-2017 war to destroy the Deash 'caliphate'. Before that, the Quds Force fought al-Qaeda and other jihadists in Syria and Afghanistan. Soleimani repeatedly accused the US of colluding with the terrorists.
Soleimani's assassination prompted Iran to target a pair of US bases in Iraq with over a dozen ballistic missiles, with the 8 January 2020 assault leaving more than 100 US troops with traumatic brain injuries and preceded by just a few minutes' warning time to Iran's Iraqi allies. Trump's aides encouraged him to launch strikes on sites across Iran in response, but the president decided against it, apparently after watching Fox News host Tucker Carlson's appeal urging restraint
in the explosive situation.
13 December 2021, 17:30 GMT
The Iranian commander's killing prompted Iraq's parliament to issue a resolution demanding the immediate withdrawal of all US forces in the country. The Trump administration began a drawdown of US forces in March 2020, with troop numbers falling from a high of 5,300 to 2,500 by the time Trump left office. Iraqi-US negotiations on the matter continued for over a year, and led to an agreement in July 2021 committing Washington to end its combat mission in Iraq by the end of the year.
Last Thursday, Iraqi and US officials announced
that the combat mission was over and that the remaining US troops were reassigned to non-combat roles. Some Iraqi Shia militias have warned
that they would resume attacks against US forces which began after Soleimani's killing until all American troops were gone, and they wouldn't accept any 'rebranded' US military role in the country.
* A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.