February 27, 2024

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Iraq is striving to contain the fighting between American forces and Iranian-backed factions, for fear of it spreading to Gaza.

Iraq is striving to contain the fighting between American forces and Iranian-backed factions, for fear of it spreading to Gaza.

BAGHDAD (AP) — Dozens of attacks on U.S. military facilities by Iranian-backed factions in Iraq over the past two months as the war continues. The war between Israel and Hamas The violent protests have forced Baghdad to take a balancing act that is becoming more difficult by the day.

rocket Attack on the sprawling American embassy Peace talks in Baghdad on Friday marked a further escalation as Iraqi officials seek to contain the fallout from the latest war in the Middle East.

Iran has significant influence in Iraq, and a coalition of Iranian-backed groups brought Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani to power in October 2022. Meanwhile, there are about 2,000 American troops in Iraq under an agreement with Baghdad, mainly to counter ISIS. Militant Islamic.

Baghdad also relies heavily on exemptions from sanctions imposed by Washington to purchase electricity from Iran, and since the US invasion in 2003, Iraq’s foreign currency reserves It was placed in the US Federal Reserve, giving the Americans significant control over Iraq’s supply of dollars.

Al-Sudani’s predecessors also had to walk a delicate line between Tehran and Washington, but the war between Israel and Hamas greatly increased the risks.

since The war broke out on October 7A group of the organization claimed responsibility for at least 91 attacks on American bases in Iraq and Syria Iraqi militants supported by Iran Which is called the Islamic Resistance in Iraq. The militants say their attacks are in response Washington’s support for Israel And its military presence in Iraq and Syria.

Al-Sudani condemned the American attacks and counter-strikes, describing them as a violation of his country’s sovereignty. He also ordered the authorities to pursue the militants involved in the attacks, most of which caused no casualties but only minor damage. His office declined to comment further.

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Washington has sent messages that its patience is running out.

After the attack on the embassy, ​​the Pentagon said that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “made clear (to Al-Sudani) that attacks against American forces must stop.”

City police Anthony Blinken A US official told the Associated Press that Washington expects Iraqi officials to take further measures to prevent such attacks, and believes they have the ability to do so.

An Iraqi official said that CIA Director William Burns warned Al-Sudani during a recent visit to the region of “serious consequences” if Iraq did not move to stop the attacks.

The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with media briefing regulations.

In a call with the Iraqi prime minister earlier this month, Blinken said the Americans would take matters into their own hands, arguing that Baghdad had not done enough to pursue the perpetrators, according to two Iraqi officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not. Authorized to comment publicly.

Two days later, a US raid on a drone launch site near the Iraqi city of Kirkuk killed five militants.

The United States and much of the international community sought to prevent the war in the blockaded Gaza Strip from expanding throughout the region.

Analyst Renad Mansour said he believes Iran is making sure the attacks remain below a level that could provoke a major American response.

“Both Iran and Iraq have so far maintained a clear line that at the moment, Iraq cannot turn into a playground that can destabilize the Sudanese government,” said Mansour, a senior research fellow at think tank Chatham House.

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He said this was partly due to Iraq’s role in transmitting messages between Washington and Tehran.

Sometimes the messenger is Sudanese.

In early November, Blinken met with Al-Sudani in Baghdad one day before the Iraqi Prime Minister’s visit to Tehran. Al-Sudani had obtained a specific promise from the militias not to launch any attacks during Blinken’s visit, according to an Iraqi official and a member of the Hezbollah Brigades militia. After the visit, Al-Sudani carried a message from Blinken to Iran to rein in the militias.

The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly.

After a week of diplomatic efforts made by the Iraqi Prime Minister. The United States extended the exemption from sanctions imposed on Iraq For four months to purchase Iranian electricity. Iran hawks in Washington criticized the move, saying it would boost Tehran’s revenues while its proxies go to war with Israel.

Mansour says Washington has used the sanctions waiver “as one of its cards” in economic-focused efforts Pressure on Iran and Iraq.

Unlike the Lebanese Hezbollah group, which is seen as Iran’s most powerful proxy in the region, Iraqi militias have so far played only a limited role in the conflict.

The official from the Kataib Hezbollah group said that currently, there are only a small number of militiamen from Iraq in southern Lebanon, near Israel’s northern border. He said the Iraqis were working to “manage the battle” alongside Hezbollah and representatives of Hamas, the armed group that has ruled Gaza for 16 years and is currently fighting Israel.

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He said that Iranian-backed groups in Iraq do not want the conflict to spread throughout the region, but are ready to respond with force to any attacks.

Iyad Al-Anbar, a professor of political science at the University of Baghdad, said that if Iran and its allies choose to escalate, Sudanese government will likely not be able to restrain them or prevent consequences on Iraqi soil.

Al-Anbar said: “For this reason, all the Sudanese could do was try to achieve some calm through statements.”

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Chehayeb reported from Beirut. Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.