Iranian missiles have hit two Iraqi bases hosting US troops following Tehran’s pledge to get revenge for the US killing of Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s elite foreign operations force. He died on Friday when rockets fired from a US Reaper drone hit his car as it was leaving Baghdad’s international airport.
The missile attacks on Tuesday came a day after the US Defense Secretary Mark Esper refuted a military letter that appeared to say US troops were getting ready to leave Iraq. But Iraqi parliamentarians are angry at the deadly drone raid that targeted Soleimani, and have called for the expulsion of foreign forces from the country.
The killing of Soleimani, along with Iraqi paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, marked a dramatic escalation of conflict between Washington and Tehran. Relations had already been spiralling downwards amid US sanctions, tit-for-tat killings and a recent siege of the US embassy in Baghdad by hundreds of people loyal to the Popular Mobilisation Forces, an umbrella group of pro-Iranian militia forces under the authority of al-Muhandis.
All the while, Iraq faces a host of internal problems. It has been riven by protest for years and thousands of people have led regular anti-government demonstrations across the country. People have camped in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square since October, as part of their effort to get systemic political change and electoral reform – and protesters have urged both Iran and the US to stop exerting control over Iraqi affairs.
With Iraq the site of Iran’s biggest single security loss in years, is there any prospect of Iraq plotting its own independent course? We put that question to a panel of experts.