An Iraqi anti-government protester lifts a banner depicting Prime Minister-designate Mohammad Allawi with the inscription 'rejected,' during a student demonstration in the southern city of Nasiriyah, on February 6, 2020. Photo: AFP / Asaad Niazi

The situation in Iraq since the US-led military invasion in 2003 has always been a source of turmoil in terms f extremism and the emergence of takfiri terrorist groups. In these circumstances, we have witnessed repeated, widespread and systematic violations of human rights and humanitarian laws in a variety of ways.

After the formal end of its occupation of Iraq in 2008, the United States concluded a security agreement with the Iraqi government. Subject to Article 5, Paragraph 2 of this agreement, the US is to recognize the sovereignty of Iraq at any time if it requests that the Americans withdraw from its territory.

The Popular Mobilization Forces, or Units (PMU), are now legally considered part of the Iraqi Armed Forces. According to Iraqi legislation formalizing this, groups and organizations under the PMU banner are legal structures that will have the rights and remuneration appropriate to Iraqi security forces.

For the past several months, people in several Iraqi cities have taken to the streets to protest over their economic status, but there has also been violent intervention by some foreign powers. During the protests, the Iranian consulates in Karbala and Najaf Ashraf were attacked, first on November 4 and then on November 27. Meanwhile, the US government, contrary to diplomatic norms, has clearly backed the rioters and urged them to expel Iranian influence from Iraq. Among them is US President Donald Trump, who tweeted in December:

“To the millions of people in Iraq who want to be liberated and do not want to be under Iranian control and control: Now is your turn!”

An unidentified rocket attack on a US military base near Kirkuk on December 5 resulted in the death of a US military contractor and injuries to several others. The US government blamed affiliates of the group Kataeb Hezbollah for the attacks, and on December 9 fighters bombed several Iraqi Hezbollah headquarters on the border with Syria. During the attack, two Hezbollah operatives were killed and four others injured. In response, a large crowd marched to the US Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone, and entered the embassy grounds. No member of the US diplomatic corps was attacked and no one was harmed.

Although the Iranian government denied any involvement in the attack on the US Embassy, ​​Trump tweeted on January 1  that Iran was responsible, and threatened to exact a high price from Tehran. Two days later, on the morning of January 3, a US drone launched missile strikes on two vehicles carrying Major-General Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (along with eight others, four Iranians and four Iraqis).

After the incident, the White House issued a statement accepting responsibility for the attack. The statement said the reason for the attack was a strong defense to intimidate Iranians against imminent attacks. And according to US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, the president himself had ordered the attack.

In accordance with the agreement between the governments of Iraq and the United States, the US government is expressly forbidden from using Iraqi territory to attack third countries. The government of Iraq may invoke the UN General Assembly’s resolution defining intervention, which has been interpreted as classifying the recent US moves to target Shiite militias and Iranian commanders as a clear case of aggressive action. This response can be documented as an act of non-violent self-defense, such as demanding the withdrawal of US troops as soon as possible.

Sajad Abedi

Sajad Abedi is a resident fellow at a national defense and security think-tank in Iran and a postdoctoral student at the University of Tehran. He is also an advisory board member of the Cyber Security Research Center at Islamic Azad University.

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