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US vows to face threats by Iran-backed armed groups in Iraq

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The US administration called on Iraqi officials to take immediate action to hold the perpetrators accountable following an attack on Sunday that targeted US forces in Baghdad.

The US State Department said on Tuesday that it was 'outraged' by the attack, which killed three Iraqi children and two women from the same family after a rocket aimed at Baghdad airport – where US troops are stationed – hit their home.

The US has vowed to respond to threats against American interests in Iraq and is drafting sanctions targeting Iran-backed militias if attacks against US targets in the country continue.

Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned the Iraqi leadership that the country would close down its embassy in Baghdad and demanded decisive actions against the armed groups responsible.

“The United States will not tolerate threats to our men and women serving abroad and we will not hesitate to take any action we deem necessary to keep our personnel safe,” the State Department said in a statement emailed to The National late on Monday.

It refused to comment on Mr Pompeo’s calls to the Iraqis, but said: “We have made the point before that the actions of lawless Iran-backed militias remain the single biggest deterrent to stability in Iraq.”

Martin Huth, the EU ambassador to Iraq, condemned the latest attacks, saying "criminal terrorist attacks need to stop, perpetrators held accountable," in a tweet on Tuesday.

Rocket and bomb attacks have become an almost daily routine against the US Embassy – a sprawling compound in the heavily fortified Green Zone – as well as military bases hosting US troops and logistics convoys destined for the US-led International Coalition forces.

At least nine previously unknown Shiite groups, believed to be linked to major Shiite militias, have claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Lawmaker Dhafir Al Ani, who sits on the parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee said “punishing measures” are likely to follow any US Embassy closure.

“Washington has prepared a list of 40 names of militia leaders who will be considered targets and will face sanctions,” Mr Al Ani told The National.

The sanctions will also be imposed on the Popular Mobilisation Forces, a state-sponsored umbrella group for paramilitary groups, including some Iran-backed militias, targeting their arms and financing, Mr Al Ani said, adding that the US is likely treat the Iraqi government as it has Tehran.

He confirmed that 12 European embassies informed the government that they will take the same step.



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