Blinken Visits Iraq
- On November 5, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani during an unannounced visit to Baghdad, Iraq.
- The Secretary and Prime Minister discussed the two countries’ continued coordination of humanitarian aid to Gaza, the prevention of a wider regional conflict, the need to ensure that Palestinians are not forcibly displaced outside of Gaza, and the recent attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq.
- Secretary Blinken called the attacks from Iranian aligned forces “totally unacceptable” and said that although the U.S. is not looking for conflict with Iran, “we’ll do what’s necessary to protect our personnel.”
- The Prime Minister pledged to pursue the perpetrators of rocket attacks and has similarly characterized the attacks as unacceptable.
Recent Attacks on U.S. Forces
- Iranian backed groups have attacked U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria with drones or rockets at least 38 times since October 17. Defense officials reported that most of the attacks were disrupted by the U.S. military or failed to reach their targets.
- Recent attacks on U.S. forces have resulted in 14 minor injuries to American personnel in Iraq.
- Targets include U.S. and coalition forces at Al-Asad Air Base, Al-Harir Air Base, and a military base near Baghdad’s international airport.
- Groups tied to the Islamic Resistance in Iraq (IRI) claimed responsibility for most of the attacks in Iraq and Syria.
- The IRI is an umbrella term for all Iran-backed militias in Iraq. The use of a generic name (IRI) is part of the “façade strategy” that Iran and its proxies have used to avoid accountability for attacks.
- Iranian-aligned militias had not attacked U.S. personnel in Iraq during the past year, until the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war. Attacks over the past month mark a significant increase in strikes against U.S. personnel in Iraq.
U.S.-Iraqi Defense Coordination
- Responding to attacks on the three Iraqi military bases, Prime Minister Sudani ordered “preemptive security measures.”
- The U.S. has 2,500 troops in Iraq on an advise and assist mission to combat the Islamic State. There are no U.S. forces with a combat role in Iraq.
- Approximately 1,200 additional troops have deployed or are in the process of deploying to the Middle East to increase force protection.
- The Government of Iraq has committed to protecting U.S. and Global Coalition forces and personnel.
- The principles of the U.S.-Iraqi security cooperation are laid out in the Strategic Framework Agreement between the U.S. and the Republic of Iraq.
- The agreement recognizes a temporary U.S. presence in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government and does not allow the U.S. to use Iraqi territory to launch attacks against other countries.
- In August, the U.S. and Iraq discussed efforts to pursue a comprehensive 360-degree partnership that includes long-term defense cooperation.