As anti-government protests continue to draw thousands to the streets in Iraq’s capital, the US embassy has once again come under fire, with reports claiming it was hit by at least three rockets.
The US Embassy in Baghdad came under fire Sunday night in what marked the first direct strike against the military base where American troops are deployed, following months of increased escalations.
So far, reports are claiming five rockets were fired into Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone. Three of the rockets hit the US embassy, with one striking the cafeteria during dinner time. As for the injuries, AFP is reporting one person was wounded, while Reuters is reporting at least three were wounded.
However, those reports are citing anonymous officials, and the US has yet to confirm the damage from the attack. We also have yet to hear of anyone claiming responsibility, although the US has been quick to blame past rocket attacks on what it calls “Iran-backed militias.
Hours after the attack, Iraq’s prime minister released a statement in which he said, “We denounce the continuation of these outlawed actions that have the goal of weakening the Iraqi state and violating its sovereignty and the sanctity of diplomatic missions on its soil.
Meanwhile, the latest escalation comes as thousands of anti-government protesters have continued to fill the streets in recent days. Iraq’s “Million Man March” aimed at calling for US troops to leave the country drew a massive presence on Friday.
Tensions increased even more on Sunday when an influential Shia cleric withdrew his support for the protests, and members of his militia who were standing in between demonstrators and government forces withdrew.
The protesters refused to stand down, and police unleashed both tear gas and live ammunition, resulting in reports of at least 12 deaths and more than 200 injuries in just three days. Human rights groups estimate there have been as many as 600 deaths since the anti-government protests started in October.
The US has repeatedly claimed that its goal for maintaining a presence in Iraq is to ensure that ISIS does not start to gain power again. But a spokesperson for the US-led coalition confirmed that the current operation against the Islamic State has been suspended amid the latest escalation.
“The Coalition’s operations against ISIS are currently paused. But while we’re paused, we still are maintaining a close relationship with our Iraqi security force partners,” Col. Myles Caggins III said. “The Coalition is not going to conduct operations against ISIS outside of the bases and our number one priority remains protecting our own troops.”
While he claimed the goal is to focus on the safety of American troops, the latest protests calling for the US to withdraw along with the Iraqi parliament’s own vote to expel foreign troops, has left many wondering if the safest path for US forces is the one that leads home.