‘This is your time’: Trump calls for Iraqis to rise up against Iran
President Donald Trump has called on ‘millions’ of people in Iraq to resist Iran, as the fallout over US airstrikes on an Iran-backed militia brings Washington and Tehran one step closer to proxy war.
“To those many millions of people in Iraq who want freedom and who don’t want to be dominated and controlled by Iran, this is your time!,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
To those many millions of people in Iraq who want freedom and who don’t want to be dominated and controlled by Iran, this is your time!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 31, 2019
Earlier on Tuesday, the president accused Iran of “orchestrating an attack on the US embassy in Iraq,” as scores of protesters stormed the compound chanting “death to America,” waving Hezbollah flags and setting fires. Embassy security forces fought back with stun grenades, and US officials told Reuters that additional Marines would be deployed to the embassy to bolster security.
The protests were triggered by US airstrikes on three Kataib Hezbollah targets in Iraq and two in Syria on Sunday. Washington blames the Iranian-supported militia for attacking a coalition base in Kirkuk on Friday, a strike that killed one American contractor and left several US troops injured.
Nobody has claimed responsibility for the Kirkuk attack, and Iran has denied responsibility for any militia attacks on US personnel. Yet Washington has pinned the blame on Tehran, with Trump claiming that “Iran killed” the contractor and State Secretary Mike Pompeo declaring it an “Iranian proxy attack.”
Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 31, 2019
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has claimed that Kataib Hezbollah and its allied Shia militias that make up the ‘Popular Mobilization Forces’ are under the control of the Iraqi government in “95 percent of cases,” and has warned the US against policing their activities. Yet, many on the ground see these Shia militias as doing the bidding of Tehran.
Trump’s tweet seems therefore to be aimed at Iraq’s Sunni minority, many of whom fear the growth in power of the Shia militias. However, it is unclear what exactly Trump is calling for. The US president issued similar statements last year, declaring that the “US is watching” as “the people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime.” However, Trump never acted militarily against the Islamic Republic, and the government in Tehran remains in power.Also on rt.com US sends reinforcements to its Baghdad embassy amid Iraqi protests over strikes
Still, calling for Iraqi resistance against the influence of Tehran is an inflammatory message at a time of heightened tension between America and Iran. As Mahdi attempts to balance relations with both sides, the Iraqi PM accused the United States of violating his country’s sovereignty with its airstrikes, while his National Security Council said it rejects the idea of Iraq becoming a battlefield for the US and Iran to fight over.
Iraq’s top Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, condemned the American airstrikes, but also called on the militias to refrain from revenge attacks, “to ensure Iraq does not become a field for settling regional and international scores.”
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