Mike Pompeo holds calls with regional leaders over US strikes on Iraqi militias

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held telephone calls with leaders in the Middle East on Monday to discuss American air strikes in Iraq.

Mr Pompeo held telephone calls with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the US State Department said.

Iraq latest

The Saudi Press Agency said Prince Mohammed and Mr Pompeo "discussed a number of regional and international developments as well as efforts to enhance security and stability in the region".

On Sunday, the United States carried out attacks on five targets in Iraq and Syria on the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia.

At least 25 militia fighters were killed and 55 wounded in the strikes the US said was in response to the killing of a US civilian contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base.

Riyadh on Tuesday condemned attacks launched last week by Iranian regime-backed militias against American forces in Iraq, the Saudi Press Agency reported citing an official statement.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Pompeo said in a call with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that the strikes "were aimed at deterring Iran," the State Department said.

Caretaker Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi warned the US response could plunge Iraq further into the heart of a proxy conflict between the United States and Iran.

"The prime minister described the American attack on the Iraqi armed forces as an unacceptable vicious assault that will have dangerous consequences," his office said.

A hole left after the US air strike in Qaim, Iraq, Reuters

The destroyed headquarters of Kataib Hezbollah in Qaim. Reuters

The destroyed headquarters of Kataib Hezbollah in Qaim. Reuters

An ambulance transports wounded members to hospital. Reuters

Mohammed Mohieh, the spokesman of Iraq's Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah, said the group vows to exact revenge for the "aggression of evil American ravens." AP Photo

Also on Monday, Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis, a senior member in Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) and founder of Kutaib Hezbollah vowed it will retaliate.

"We will hold America accountable and will not stay silent on what has happened. The administration in Washington cannot possibly think that they control Iraq," he said.

The PMF is an umbrella grouping of paramilitary groups that was formally integrated into Iraq's armed forces during the fight against ISIS. Most of the militia in the group are backed by Iran. On Monday about 400 people in Basra protested against the air strikes, demonstrating its support of the militias. Counter demonstrations applauded the US action.

Mr Pompeo has warned that Washington may take "additional actions" in the region.

Updated: December 31, 2019 08:35 AM

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