BAGHDAD — Four rockets targeted the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Thursday night, the latest in a series of aerial attacks amid Iranian threats and political violence as Iraq’s factions struggle to form a new government.
The Iraqi military said one rocket had landed inside a school across the street from the U.S. Embassy in the heavily fortified Green Zone, with shock waves from the blast slightly wounding an Iraqi child and an Iraqi soldier. There were no immediate reports of casualties or details about damage from the other three rockets.
The U.S. embassy said on Twitter that its compound had been attacked “by terrorist groups attempting to undermine Iraq’s security, sovereignty and international relations.”
“We have long said that these sorts of reprehensible attacks are an assault not just on diplomatic facilities, but on the sovereignty of Iraq itself,” the embassy’s post said.
In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman, John F. Kirby, said “a relatively small number” of rockets had struck the Green Zone and that U.S. officials were still assessing the damage.
The rockets were launched against the backdrop of a spate of rocket and drone strikes against American personnel in Iraq and Syria that Biden administration officials have attributed to Iran-backed militias. Asked if the United States would retaliate for the latest barrage, Mr. Kirby would not specify what response, if any, was possible.
“I’ve said this before, we’re going to do what we have to do to protect our people,” Mr. Kirby told reporters. “If and when we respond, we’re going to pick the time and place of our choosing. We’re certainly mindful that these attacks continue. They are obviously meant to cause harm, if not death, to our people, and we take that very, very seriously.”
He added: “We have made it clear in other channels to the Iranians how seriously we’re taking this.”
Iraqi officials have said the United States has sent messages through Iraq to Iran with warnings that it would retaliate for further attacks.
The rockets fired Thursday activated the embassy’s counter-rocket, artillery, mortar defensive system, designed to detect and intercept incoming projectiles. In neighborhoods near the Green Zone, some residents watched from gardens and rooftops as midair rounds from the system exploded in flashes of red. The thud of rockets landing sent others rushing indoors to take cover.
An official from the American-led anti-ISIS coalition said Iraqi security forces had informed it that they had found the rocket launcher under a bridge in the Dora neighborhood in south Baghdad.
There were no claims of responsibility. But attacks on U.S. military bases have increased since the beginning of January around the anniversary of the U.S. drone strike that killed both Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani of Iran and a senior Iraqi security official in Baghdad in 2020. Iran and Iranian-backed militias in Iraq say they have not yet exacted revenge for the assassination of General Suleimani.
Shiite political factions, some with armed wings, have been splintering following Iraqi elections in October in which supporters of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr won the largest number of seats. Mr. al-Sadr, considered an Iraqi nationalist, opposes interference from both Iran and the United States in Iraq.
In a Twitter post on Thursday night, Mr. al-Sadr blamed Iranian-backed factions for the rocket attacks, saying they were trying to justify their existence by attacking American interests.
The first session of the new parliament on Sunday, aimed at choosing a speaker, ended in turmoil after the most senior member of parliament collapsed and was taken to a hospital after he said he had been pushed by Sadrist members.
Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington and Falih Hassan from Baghdad.
Original News : https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/13/world/middleeast/baghdad-embassy-rockets-iran.html