U.S. Embassy, Civilian Targets Attacked in Iraq

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The attacks threaten a new era of violence as the country tries to form a new government

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One of the rockets landed at an elementary school inside Baghdad’s Green Zone, a heavily fortified area of ​​diplomatic and government buildings in the city center, injuring a woman and a young child, while air defenses at the US embassy fired two more missiles. Killed, Iraqi security forces said. Three separate attacks targeted political parties opposing the influence of the country’s powerful militias.

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Iranian-allied militias in the country are fighting to re-establish their influence in the country after suffering a setback in Iraq’s national election last year, when they were defeated by other Shia-led parties. Voters gave the most seats to a faction led by Muktada al-Sadr, a Shia cleric and self-styled nationalist who has vowed to limit the power of the militia.

Mr Sadar has vowed to form a majority government, which could oust some groups affiliated with the paramilitary forces. His call to rule over them has sparked a rift between the political leaders of Shia Arabs, Iraq’s largest sectarian group. The militias are also predominantly Shia.

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“It’s a way to put pressure on Sadr and remind him that there is a danger of violence,” said Lahib Higel, a Baghdad-based senior analyst at the Iraq for International Crisis Group. “What these paramilitary groups are saying is, ‘You’re going to be responsible because you haven’t got everyone involved in this deal.

“We have never seen such division in the Shia family before,” he said.

The attacks also come as Iran and the US head on a possible withdrawal of the 2015 nuclear deal, which places limits on Tehran’s nuclear activities. This week, Iran imposed sanctions on US officials, and the Biden administration said it was ready to walk away from talks, though both sides continued to hold talks.

The attacks began on Thursday morning when the men on a motorcycle Grenades were thrown at the Baghdad office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Iraq’s main Kurdish party. Officials said the office door was smashed and its windows were smashed but no one was injured in the attack.

That night, rockets hit the compound of the US embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone. After the attack, security agencies confiscated nearby rocket launchers, officials said.

Security officials said after midnight, gunmen hurled grenades at the office of the Sunni-led Takadam political faction north of Baghdad, injuring two security guards, breaking windows and causing other damage. Takadam won the second largest share of seats in parliament and its leader was re-elected speaker of the assembly in January in a move opposed by Iran-aligned groups.

In the end, unidentified assailants attacked the Baghdad office of another Sunni politician Khamis al-Khanjar, causing only physical damage to the building, officials said.

After losing last year’s election, Iran-aligned militants are fighting to maintain political influence in the country. In November, a drone strike targeted Iraq’s prime minister’s residence and parties affiliated with militants challenged the election results in court, but their case was dismissed by Iraq’s top court last month.

In a possible clue to the origins of the attack, Kataib Hezbollah, one of the largest militia groups, said the attack on the US embassy came in response to a decision by Iraq’s top court that had revitalized the militia’s challenge. election result. The militia also condemned the attack and blamed it without evidence on “Gangs belonging to the UK and the United Arab Emirates”.

The court’s decision on Thursday temporarily suspended the newly elected parliament authority in response to a lawsuit brought by lawmakers who disputed the legality and rules of a parliamentary session. The ruling buys time for the ruling group to continue its influence.

Mr Sadr, who is not seeking the position himself but has a strong clout in Iraqi politics, pushed back the militia in a statement on Twitter, accusing the US embassy attack on “parties claiming to be resistance”. Put it.

He said the attacks were aimed at delaying the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. Militia say they are fighting to remove US troops from the country.

“People should not be deceived by these movements,” he said.

The US embassy blamed the attack on its compound on “terrorist groups attempting to undermine Iraq’s security, sovereignty and international relations”.

Write Jared Malsin at [email protected]

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