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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department, Oct. 14, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Photo: AFP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] [url=https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/tagreader/tag/United States]United States[/url] [url=https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/tagreader/tag/Mike Pompeo]Mike Pompeo[/url]
WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – At a press conference on Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismissed the conditional ceasefire that the Iranian-backed militia, Kata’ib Hizbollah, announced on Sunday.
The militias are obliged not to attack US and other diplomatic facilities, and that seemed to be Pompeo’s point. He would not express any appreciation for their adhering to the most basic norms of international law and convention.
“Kata’ib Hizbollah militia in Baghdad recently declared a ceasefire and promised not to attack the US embassy,” the journalist asked. “Do you believe this represents progress in securing the embassy, or are you still considering pulling out US diplomats?”
After affirming that he bore a solemn responsibility to protect US diplomats, Pompeo suggested that the reporter’s very query was inappropriate.
“Just think about your question,” Pompeo said. “We have a rogue set of militias who have now promised not to violate the Iraqi people’s sovereignty, to take aim at US diplomats serving there,” who are working “to help the Iraqi people.”
In other words: no thanks for the militias’ doing what they are supposed to do.
But why did the militias even call the ceasefire? They want the US to leave, don’t they? Indeed, when they announced their ceasefire on Sunday, they said it was conditional on the Iraqi government drawing up a timetable for the departure of US troops.
A Journalist’s Misunderstanding
In her question, the journalist missed an essential point about what the US has said regarding its response to the militia attacks in Iraq.
Washington has not threatened merely to close the embassy. It has said that it will follow the closure of the embassy with a massive attack on those parties that have been attacking the US.
If it were only a threat to close the embassy, the militias would, almost certainly, continue their attacks and celebrate victory, as the US packed up and left Baghdad.
That, however, is only half the US threat—which was first made in a Sept. 20 phone conversation between Pompeo and Iraqi President Barham Salih.
“The decision to close the embassy in Baghdad is in President Trump’s hands and is ready,” the well-regarded Washington Post columnist, David Ignatius, reported Pompeo as telling Salih, citing a Baghdad news site, Iraqi24.
“If our forces withdraw and the embassy is closed in this way, we will liquidate all those who have been proven to have been involved in these attacks,” Pompeo added in his discussion with Salih, as he cited Kata’ib Hizbollah and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq as particular targets.
In answering the reporter’s question, Pompeo laid the blame for the militia attacks squarely on Tehran, describing them as “malign activity that the Iranians are engaged in” through “the proxy forces to which you refer.”
Pompeo was also careful to include positive words for the Baghdad government in his remarks.
“We are happy that the Iraqis are doing more to provide increased security for our team on the ground there,” he said. “We’re going to do everything we can to continue to support Iraqi sovereignty and freedom.”
However, Pompeo did not directly answer the question as to whether the US was still considering closing the embassy. Whatever his thinking on the issue, by leaving the matter open, Pompeo also left open the threat to the militias of large-scale retaliation, if the US should feel obliged to leave Baghdad.
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