Baghdad on Monday issued a caution after the US warned Tehran of a “decisive” response if Washington’s interests are harmed in Iraq. Since October 28, ten rocket attacks have targeted areas where US soldiers and diplomats are stationed. On Monday, US defence secretary Mark Esper “expressed his concern” over the strikes in a telephone call with outgoing prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, according to a statement from the premier’s office.
In response, Abdel Mahdi “called on everyone to spare no effort to prevent an escalation that will threaten all parties”, the statement added.
“Unilateral decisions will trigger negative reactions that will make it more difficult to control the situation and will threaten Iraq’s security, sovereignty and independence,” he said.
Earlier, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said, “Iran must respect the sovereignty of its neighbours and immediately cease its provision of lethal aid and support to third parties in Iraq and throughout the region.”
“We must... use this opportunity to remind Iran’s leaders that any attacks by them, or their proxies of any identity, that harm Americans, our allies or our interests will be answered with a decisive US response,” Pompeo said in a statement.
Iran is in the grip of an economic crisis. US President Donald Trump’s administration, which is close to Iran’s adversaries Saudi Arabia and Israel, has been trying to counter Tehran’s influence around the region, including through sanctions aimed at blocking all its oil exports.
Iran’s economy has primarily been battered since the country has been locked in a standoff with the United States and its Gulf Arab allies after US President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 deal that gave it relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The United States has imposed sanctions on Iran’s sovereign wealth fund, whose board of trustees includes President Hassan Rouhani, as well as Etemad Tejarate Pars, a company that the Treasury Department said had sent money internationally on behalf of Iran’s defence ministry.