Iraq Weekly Update: December 27th to January 2nd

November 1 to  7th

November 8th to 14th

November 15th to  21st

November 22nd to 28th

November 29th to December 5th

December 6th to 12th

December 13th to 19th

December 20th to 26th

I am sorry this post is later than usual, I was having a hard time figuring out how to do it as I had been focusing strictly on the protests in past posts.  I will be making a few changes in future posts.  I explain more about this at the end of the post.

This week marks a turning point for US and Iraqi relations as well as for the protests that started in October.  

With the US air striking Iraqi PMU bases on the claim that they were 'Iranian Linked', it has been a week of pure chaos that hit a crescendo with a US strike on the Baghdad international airport and the death of the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani as well as prominent PMU commanders.

Below is a breakdown of all the major happening of the last week.

January 27th

A US civilian contractor was kill and several US service member along with Iraqi military personnel were wounded in a rocket attack on an Iraqi base in Kirkuk.  

According to Reuters

One official said the United States was looking into the possible involvement of Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Shi’ite Muslim militia group.

According to Aljazeera, protesters support President Salih's rejection of an Iranian back new Prime Minister and his threat of resignation if forced to name the unpopular candidate.

President Barham Salih has resisted recent attempts by a pro-Iran coalition to put forward nominees for prime minister that included a resigned minister and a controversial governor, Asaad al-Eidani.

Throughout the day, according to Antiwar.com

In Diwaniya, an activist died of injuries he received in a bombing in mid-December. Protesters responded to Saeer Tayyib’s death by setting buildings on fire.
Several people were injured in Karbala when clashes broke out between demonstrators and unknown assailants.

January 28th

Protesters in Nassiriya broke into an oil field and forced the employees to cut out the power, shutting it down, according to Daily Star

The incident marks the first time protesters have shut an entire oilfield, though they have blocked entrances to refineries and ports in the past. Iraq's economy depends on oil exports which make up more than 90% of revenues for OPEC's second larger producer. No foreign companies operate at the oilfield.

January 29th

US retaliated for the attack on the 27th that killed the contractor by launching airstrikes on 5 PMU bases  that killed least 25 and wounded over 50, according to Antiwar.com

US officials say the Ketaib Hezbolah facilities were storage facilities, and accused the group of planning attacks on US forces. They said further attacks would depend on the militia’s response.

Iraqi Military amped up security around airbases in the western part of Iraq following the 27th rocket attack, according to AP

Maj. Gen. Raad Mahmoud told The Associated Press that investigations were still underway to determine who was behind the unclaimed attacks on bases across Iraq, including one earlier this month in which five rockets landed inside Ain al-Asad.

A rocket strike was carried out by an unknown group on an Iraqi base, likley in retaliation to the US airstrikes hours before, according to Antiwar.com.

The rockets hit the base, but there is no word on damage done to the base, or how may casualties were inflicted. There has yet to be a claim of credit, though it’s almost certainly related to the US strikes earlier in the day.

January 30th

A Top PMU leader vowed retaliation to the US airstrike on the Kataib Hezbollah, according to the Defense Post.

“The blood of the martyrs will not be in vain and our response will be very tough on the American forces in Iraq,” Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, also known as Abul Mahdi al-Muhandis, said Sunday night in response to the U.S. strikes, Reuters reported on December 3.

Reuters reports Sistani expressed is disapproval of the US airstrike.

“The Iraqi authorities alone are entitled to deal with these practices and take the necessary measures to prevent them. They are called upon do so and to ensure Iraq does not become a field for settling regional and international scores and that others do not interfere in its internal affairs,” Sistani said.

US Claims the attack was a 'defensive action' to counter Iran, according to MSN

“One of the things that we want to emphasize is that this was a defensive action that was designed to protect American forces and American citizens in Iraq,” Brian Hook, the State Department’s Iran envoy, said in a telephone briefing Monday. “We’re also working on the mission set of restoring deterrence against Iranian aggression.
“They took a strike at an American facility,” Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said Monday on “Fox and Friends.” “President Trump’s been pretty darn patient, and he’s made clear at the same time that when Americans’ lives were at risk we would respond, and that’s what the Department of Defense did yesterday.”

Iran denies involvement in rocket attack, according to Xinhuanet

"This unsubstantiated U.S. claim cannot justify the bombing and killing of people in violation of international regulations," Rabiee was quoted as saying.
Rabiee said that the U.S. attack was another proof of its "destructive" role in the region, particularly in Iraq, and it once again showed that "as long as the U.S. keeps its uncalled-for presence in Iraq and Syria, peace will be unattainable for all."

The United States expressed 'disappointment in Iraq's condemnation to the US air stole that targeted militia groups the US claim to be 'Iran-Backed'

A State Department Official Said, according to the Middle East Eye

Washington has accused Kataib Hezbollah (KH) of launching the attack on US forces before retaliating against the group on Sunday.
said, days after a rocket attack killed an American contractor.
Washington has accused Kataib Hezbollah (KH) of launching the attack on US forces before retaliating against the group on Sunday.
"We're disappointed that every time that Kataib Hezbollah controls and moves weapons and people on behalf of the Iranians, there's no condemnation," the official said.
"Every time Hezbollah represses protesters … there's no condemnation. Every time Hezbollah sends fighters off to Syria without the authorisation of the Iraqi government, there's no condemnation.
"Yeah, it's disappointing, but - you know - it's moments like this when you see people's true colours."

Washington also has concerns over retaliation likely to occur in response to the US airstrikes, according to Reuters.

U.S. military officials, speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, said they had little doubt the militia group would respond in some way which could lead to a new spike in tensions between the United States and longtime foe Iran.
“I think that they will retaliate,” one military official said, referring to Kataib Hezbollah.
Another military official said that there was concern that the events over the past week could lead to a cycle of retaliation.

According to Reuters, Sadr would work with political rivals to expel the US from Iraq.

Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said on Monday he was willing to work with Iran-backed militia groups - his political rivals - to end the United States military presence in Iraq through political and legal means.
If that does not work, he will “take other actions” in cooperation with his rivals to kick out U.S. troops. Sadr’s militia fought U.S. troops for years following Washington’s invasion and toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The oil field in Nasiriya resumed operations after being shut down by protesters, according to Reuters.

Operations have resumed at Iraq's southern Nasiriya oilfield, the oil ministry said on Monday, but oil sources added that it will take up to two days for output to be fully restored.

December 31st

Protesters along side PMU members stormed the US embassy in the Green Zone, marking the first time the protesters had gain access into the area, according to Antiwar.com

Iraqi protesters, some dressed in uniforms identifying them as members of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) militias forced their way into the US Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday, throwing rocks and chanting “death to America!

Details are still emerging, and while there was gunfire heard from the embassy, there are no report of any casualties so far. The protesters are retaliating over Sunday’s US airstrikes against PMU bases in Iraq and Syria.

According to The New Arab, Trump calls on Iraq to protect the US embassy and blamed Iran for being behind the protesters swarming around it.

"We expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!" Trump tweeted.
"Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the US Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible," he tweeted.
In his tweet, Trump said the US had "strongly responded" to the attack that killed the US contractor and "always will" in similar situations.

Marines are sent to protect the Embassy, according to Marinecoretimes.com

A detachment of 100 Marines is deploying to Iraq to reinforce security at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad after Iraqi protesters supportive of an Iran-backed Shiite militia attempted to storm the compound, U.S. Central Command said Tuesday.
All U.S. personnel are secure and there are no plans to evacuate the embassy, the State Department told Military Times in a Tuesday email.
The State Department added that the U.S. ambassador for Iraq, Matt Tueller, is returning to the embassy from previously scheduled personal travel.

Iraqi President Salih, condemns the attempted entry into the US embassy by protesters, according to Reuters.

“The attempt to break the American embassy in Baghdad is a violation of international protocols and agreements binding to the Iraqi government,” he said in a statement.
“Peaceful protest is a right guaranteed and protected by the constitution but attacking foreign missions is against its interest and international reputation.”
Salih called on the Iraqi security forces to protect all foreign missions and on the protesters to leave the embassy perimeter.

Saudi Arabia chimes in with the Iran Backed Militia narrative

Iran very upset at the Audacity at the US claiming they are responsible.

A prominent militia leader is spotted with the Protesters outside the US embassy, according to MSN

Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, who goes by the nickname Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, founded the Shiite militia that is at the center of the current drama: Kataib Hezbollah. After the U.S. strike on his brigade on Sunday, he’s the one who threatened U.S. forces that there would be a response.

Throughout the day, according to Antiwar.com

Demonstrators angry at U.S. strikes against Kata’ib Hezbollah over the weekend, attacked the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Fires were set at various locations, but no embassy casualties were reported. However, two militiamen were wounded when stun grenades were thrown, apparently from inside the embassy. Also, witnesses say that lawmakers were among the protesters. This protest is unrelated to recent anti-government demonstrations. The Shi’ite militias are believed to be antagonistic to those ongoing protests.

January 1st

U.S. embassy in Baghdad suspends consular operations according to Reuters.

"Due to militia attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound, all public consular operations are suspended until further notice. All future appointments are cancelled. U.S. citizens are advised to not approach the embassy," it said in a statement.

Pompeo designates the leader of the second largest political block in Iraqi Parliament an Iranian Asset, according to Antiwar.com.

US struggles to differentiate between Iraqi Shi’ites and Iran continue to define recent struggles within Iraq, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo looks to be making that worse, declaring Iraqi politician Hadi al-Amiri to be “an Iranian proxy” on Wednesday.
...
In addition to the Badr Brigade, Amiri is also the head of the Fatah Alliance, the second largest bloc within Iraq’s parliament. This is a large part of the ruling coalition, and second only to Moqtada al-Sadr’s bloc, which the US also is not on good terms with.

The protesters and militia members leave the US embassy, according to Antiwar.com

Protests against the US Embassy in Baghdad have ended on Wednesday, with the Iraqi government and the leadership of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) militias urging a pullback from the site, and amid US guards firing tear gas against them.

January 2nd

Iraqi troops are sent to protect the Green Zone, according to AFP

On Thursday, more than a dozen black armoured vehicles of the US-trained Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service deployed on the embassy's streets in the capital's Green Zone to reinforce security there.

The Pentagon says more troops can be deployed to Iraq if needed.

The US carried out an airstrike on the civilian international airport in Baghdad, killing the Iranian Quds forces General Qassem Soleimani along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis who heads a large militia in the Iraqi PMU, the Kata'ib Hezbollah.

Prominent Iranian figures responding, according to Reuters.

Iranian Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei paid tribute to him as a "martyr", and vowed a "vigorous revenge is waiting for the criminals."
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani echoed the Supreme Leader's threat of "revenge", while Foreign Minister Javad Zarif condemned the killing as an "act of international terrorism."
"The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism," Zarif wrote on social media.

Pompeo chimed in.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was disappointed by the reaction of Washington’s European allies. “The Europeans haven’t been as helpful as I wish that they could be,” Pompeo told Fox News. “The Brits, the French, the Germans all need to understand that what we did, what the Americans did, saved lives in Europe as well,” he said.

While

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for “maximum restraint.

In a summery of the days attack, according to Antiwar.com

Hours after US Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned that the United States could conduct pre-emptive strikes against Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), airstrikes were launched at Baghdad’s International Airport. Among the dead was the head of KH, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, but more importantly, the head of Iran’s elite Quds force General Qassem Soleimani. Apparently, Muhandis had arrived at the airport to greet Soleimani’s plane.
As well as orchestrating military operations in Iraq, Soleimani had been heavily involved in Iraqi politics for years, pushing Iranian policy. Also reported killed were Mohammad Reza Al-Jabri, the Popular Mobilization Force’s director of public relations in the United States, and Lebanese Hezbollah leader Muhammad al-Kawtharani, who was in charge of Hezbollah’s Iraq activities. At least five people were killed alongside Soleimani and Muhandis. Nine people were also wounded.

This week has been pure maddness as the US not only escalated the tensions with  Iran but has also have completely destroyed their relationship with Iraq.  

This on top of the already existing fears of civil war inside of Iraq proves once again that the US only makes matters worse by interfering in the affairs of other nations.  What has started as a nationalist movement inside of Iraq to root out corruption, has been changed into what would be a new war with the US by the US's complete disregard of Iraq's sovereignty.

Moving forward I will be covering the protests along with anything happening that concerns the US inside of Iraq.

I will be changing the titles as well to the Iraq Weekly Update as I will now be covering events outside of just the protest.

Take care.

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