US blames Iran for Iraq attacks, threatens to respond ‘decisively’
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US blames Iran for Iraq attacks, threatens to respond ‘decisively’

Washington says it will hold Tehran accountable for attacks by Iran-backed militias after unknown assailants launch rockets at Baghdad green zone, Basra airport amid unrest

In this Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018 file photo, protesters try to storm the governor's building during protests demanding better public services and jobs, in Basra, Iraq. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)
In this Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018 file photo, protesters try to storm the governor's building during protests demanding better public services and jobs, in Basra, Iraq. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)

WASHINGTON — The White House on Tuesday warned it would hold Iran accountable for any violence attributed to Tehran-allied militias in Iraq that results in damage to US facilities or injures American personnel.

“Over the past few days, we have seen life-threatening attacks in Iraq, including on the United States consulate in Basra and against the American embassy compound in Baghdad,” the White House said in a statement.

“Iran did not act to stop these attacks by its proxies in Iraq, which it has supported with funding, training, and weapons.”

Three mortar shells hit late Friday the ultra-secure green zone in Baghdad, which houses Iraqi authorities and the US Embassy.

The rare attack — whose perpetrators remain unidentified — did not cause casualties or damage, according to Iraqi officials.

Asaad al-Eidani, governor of Iraq’s southern province of Basra, right, and Lt. Gen. Jameel al-Shemeri, head of Basra military operations walk during a tour in Basra streets on September 9, 2018. (AFP/Haidar MOHAMMED ALI)

In Basra, unknown assailants on Saturday fired Katyusha rockets at the airport, which also houses the US consulate, amid unrest over corruption, joblessness and a lack of public services.

Protesters in the oil-rich city have targeted Iranian assets there, burning Tehran’s consulate and the offices of Iran-linked militias.

“The United States will hold the regime in Tehran accountable for any attack that results in injury to our personnel or damage to United States Government facilities,” the White House statement said.

“America will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of American lives.”

Since Donald Trump took over the White House in early 2017, Washington has set Iran in its sights, accusing it of seeking to destabilize the Middle East.

In this June 23, 2017 file photo, supporters of Iraqi Hezbollah brigades, backed by Iran, march on a representation of an Israeli flag with a portrait of late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini and Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Baghdad, Iraq. (AP/Hadi Mizban)

The Republican president in May announced that Washington would withdraw unilaterally from the landmark nuclear pact signed in 2015 between Tehran and major global powers.

Iraq has been an initial victim of the US sanctions re-imposed on neighboring Iran, which it relies on for cheap imports.

Israel has also hinted in recent weeks that it could target Iran-backed forces in Iraq involved in transferring advanced weapons into Syria.

Times of Israel staff and AP contributed to this report.

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