BAGHDAD – A rocket landed inside Baghdad's fortified green zone, which houses the scattered US embassy, said Iraqi security officials on Sunday in an apparent warning shot to the United States amid rising tensions with Iran .
The rocket landed less than a mile from the US Embassy near Iraq's parliamentary construction and caused no damage or serious damage, a security officer said. But the time of launch has raised concerns in Iraq that it will be drawn into a conflict between two of its closest allies, the US and Iran.
There was no immediate claim for damages, but the suspicion among Iraqi officials and Western diplomats fell on one of the Shiite militias who withdraw their strength from Iranian support. Last week, the State Department took the extraordinary step in ordering all non-essential staff to leave the embassy and consulate of the Irish Iraqi city of Irbil, referring to an alleged threat from Iranian proxies in the country.
Shiite militias with deep ties to Tehran have gained unprecedented political and military power over the past three years and have repeatedly used rocket launches against US diplomatic missions to express their dissatisfaction with US policies.
Later last year, several rockets fell harmlessly near the US Embassy in Baghdad and the US Consulate in Basra during a stop and acrimonial government formation process, where the United States tried to discourage Iraqi militia members from designing the nation's cabinet after elections, where they received the second-largest seats in parliament.
The trump administration responded with the hugging consulate in Basra.
Sunday's incident contributed to a growing sense of Iraq among politicians and diplomats that Iraq can become an area of unpredictable conflict between Washington and Tehran – a perspective that Iraq's leaders have repeatedly warned will destabilize Baghdad as it works to recover from a four-year war to shed the Islamic state. 19659011] Iran and the United States played key military roles to support Iraq's military and militia forces in their efforts to defeat the militant group and have since tried to exploit this assistance for political and economic influence.
Iraqi President and Prime Minister have insisted Baghdad seeks close ties with both forces and wants to remain neutral in the rivalry that has exploded into bellicose military action warnings since President Trump joined. He withdrew from a nuclear agreement between Iran, Europe and the United States and imposed extensive economic sanctions.
Iran has responded by trying to bring Iraq even closer to its path as a way of compensating for the counterfeiting effects of US sanctions.
Iraqi officials and European diplomats have warned that even a small provocation like Sunday rocket launch could trigger a violent US response and pull the region further into violence and instability.
On Sunday afternoon, Trump tweeted "If Iran wants to fight, it will be the official end of Iran. Never again threatens the United States!" It is unclear whether the tweet was in response to the rocket strike.
State Secretary Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton have been explicit in their threats to Iran and say they will hold Tehran accountable for actions taken by their allies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon or Yemen, where Iran sponsors a constellation of powerful militias.
Earlier this month, Pompeo made a surprise trip to Baghdad to rally Iraq's leaders to the United States. 19659018] The announcement to partially evacuate the US Embassy and suspend visa services soon followed and angered some Iraqi lawmakers who said Washington is punishing Iraq for a political rivalry that it does not want any part of. The fierce US warnings have also led ExxonMobil to evacuate employees from a Basra oil rag on the weekend, according to the Associated Press.
The United States has moved a navy carrier group and fighter jets in the region in recent weeks in response to what the White House has said was "imminent" threats from Iran about US forces. The Trump administration has not provided any evidence of the claim received with skepticism and mistrust from some US lawmakers and European and Iraqi allies who suspect the United States of politicizing diplomatic spear with Iran.