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March 2, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8599

Missile Attack Targets U.S. Embassy As Shi'ite Factions Escalate Threats Against U.S. For Designating Militia Leader As Global Terrorist

March 2, 2020
Iraq | Special Dispatch No. 8599

On March 2, 2020, two missiles struck Baghdad's Green Zone, one falling near the U.S. Embassy, according to Iraqi security sources.[1] Iraqi media are reporting on a video that has surfaced online that shows the moment before the strikes. In the video, sirens can be heard as well as loud bangs heard in the background.[2] Iraqi security released photos showing the rocket launcher that was used in the attack, saying that it was found in Zayona district of east Baghdad.

The recent attack comes amid a series of threats made by Shi'ite militias commanders who recently began escalating their hostile rhetoric against the U.S., particularly after the U.S. Department of State announced on February 26 the designation of Ahmad Al-Hamidawi, the secretary general of the Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Hizbullah Brigades, as a global terrorist.


The rocket launchers were found close to "Tuesday Market" in Zayouna, east Baghdad (Source: Twitter.com)

Wa'dallah Forces Denies Responsibility For Attack

On March 2, the Wa'dallah Forces, a group of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) that is linked to Shi'ite cleric Mohammad Al-Yaqoubi, a student of the father of Muqtada Al-Sadr, issued a statement saying it was not responsible for the recent missile attack. The statement came in response to what Wa'idallah Brigades described as "false news circulated by media agencies that are exploiting the name of the formation." The statement further emphasized that the group operates "under the leadership of the Hashad [i.e., PMU] and by the order of the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces," adding that the group "denies any responsibility for any military action outside the framework of its official work as a military entity linked to the state agencies and in which it has a legal cover."[3]


Brigades' statement (Source: Facebook.com)

Al-Sadr Threatens To Activate Al-Mahdi Army

Days before the attack, Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr said in a televised interview that he was considering reactivating the Mahdi Army, which carried out many attacks against U.S. forces until he suspended it in 2008.[4] Zayouna, the district where Iraqi security forces found the rocket launcher, is near Al-Sadr city, a stronghold of the cleric's supporters and militiamen.

Hizbullah Escalates Tone of Threats

On February 27, the Hizbullah Brigades issued a communique responding to the Department of State's designation of Ahmad Al-Hamidawi as a global terrorist. The communique said: "America, the first country of terrorism in the world, still violates the sovereignty of Iraq, demeans its dignity, and belittles its people and national [political] powers. It rudely describes its men who defend their homeland as terrorists, despite the criminal history of the U.S. administrations, and their barbaric practices against the Iraqi people and the people of the world." It went on to say this "miserable and malicious decision [to designate Al-Hamidawi] does not represent anything for us. And we shall put it under our feet." The statement said the group will continue "to pursue the path of resistance to humiliate America, its proxies and supporters," pledging "not to allow the American occupation to stay in the land of the sacred sites as long as we [i.e., the Hizbullah Brigades] are alive."


Hizbullah's statement (source: kataibhezbollah.com).

In a February 29 tweet in response to the designation of Al-Hamidawi, Hizbullah Brigades military commander Abu Ali Al-Askari warned Iraqi contractors not to work with American soldiers stationed in the country.


Abu Ali Al-Askari's statement (Source: Twitter.com).

"This is a final and irreversible warning to the owners of Iraqi transportation and security companies to annul their contracts with US forces," adding that his warning also extends to those Iraqis who have diplomatic and economic ties to U.S. troops.

"The Hezbollah Brigades gives a deadline of March 15, for these cancellations to take place; otherwise, [the addressees] will bear the responsibility for their stance of reluctance and stubbornness before God and the people."

Addressing the Iraqi security forces, including the Iraqi counter-terrorism units which are trained by the U.S. troops, Al-Askari  said that "in order to preserve your history and your loyalty to the blood of the martyrs, it is imperative to not meet with the leaders of the occupation."

 

[1] Twitter.com/SecMedCell, March 2, 2020.

[2] Nasnews.com, March 2, 2020.

[3] Facebook.com/100131188261183, March 2, 2020.

 

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