2021 Outlook Assessment
Rockets targeted Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on December 20, home to the U.S. embassy and diplomatic sites in the country. U.S. officials confirmed no embassy personnel were injured.
Since mid-2019, Iranian-backed groups perpetuated dozens of rocket attacks targeting U.S. facilities in Iraq. Escalations reached an all-time high this summer after Secretary Pompeo threatened to shut down the U.S. embassy following an increase of targeted rocket attacks.
In an announcement on December 20, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States “strongly condemns this attack by Iran-backed militias. We call on all Iraqis to support their government’s efforts to reinforce Iraq’s sovereignty, to bring to justice those responsible for these reprehensible attacks and ensure that all the currently Iran-backed militias are under state control.”
Iran’s networks of influence in Iraq are extensive and encompass all spheres of society. Tehran’s most active proxies, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), are linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and function often outside the law as members of Iraqi’s Security Forces. PMF offshoots like Kataib Hezbollah have claimed responsibility for the dozens of attacks targeting Baghdad’s Green Zone in the last year.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has made the restoration of Iraq’s sovereignty the top priority on his political agenda. Al-Kadhimi has become Iraq’s first prime minister to push back against Iranian proxies. In July 2020, 14 Kataib Hezbollah members were arrested in Iraq. Although most members were released from prison within 30 hours, Al-Kadhimi proved he would challenge Iranian-backed groups that were rarely confronted by his predecessors.
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