U.S. and Iran must respect sovereignty of Iraq – military spokesman

Iraqis hold placards depicting Soleimani and al-Muhandis as they mark the first anniversary of their deaths in Baghdad. (Reuters)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Iraq has warned the United States and Iran to respect its sovereignty, a military spokesman said during an interview on Sunday night.

“We don’t want Iraq to be a starting point for striking neighboring countries,” Yehia Rasool, spokesman for commander-in-chief of the armed forces, said in an interview with al-Iraqiya channel.

“America and Iran must respect the sovereignty of Iraq … The sovereignty of Iraq is a red line for the armed forces. Any strike between America and Iran will be disastrous,” Rasool added.

His comments came as tens of thousands of supporters of Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary groups chanted anti-American slogans in central Baghdad on Sunday to mark the one year since the killing of an Iranian general and an Iraqi commander last year.

The gathering coincided with increasing tensions between Iran and the United States in the last days of President Donald Trump’s administration, and many in the crowd demanded revenge.

Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, who headed an elite overseas unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, was killed along with Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis on Jan. 3, 2020, in a U.S. drone strike on his convoy at Baghdad airport.

While no attacks occurred against U.S. forces or diplomats on Jan. 3 in Iraq, American officials say they remained concerned about advanced planning for potential attacks, according to Reuters.

On Sunday, Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Chris Miller said he was reversing his decision to send the aircraft carrier Nimitz back to its homeport.

“Due to the recent threats issued by Iranian leaders against President Trump and other U.S. government officials, I have ordered the USS Nimitz to halt its routine redeployment,” Miller said.

Reuters cited a U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, as saying that the carrier was expected to stay outside the Arabian Sea.

The official said the Pentagon’s move appeared to be more precautionary than a response to specific new intelligence.

The United States blames Iran-backed militias for regular rocket attacks on U.S. facilities in Iraq. No known Iran-backed groups have claimed responsibility.

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