The Biden administration is sending conflicting messaging about whether the Iraqi government was warned ahead of time about the U.S.’ retaliatory strikes against Iranian terror proxy groups in the country on Friday.
The U.S. conducted a series of strikes against Iranian militant proxy groups in Iraq and Syria on Friday in retaliation for the groups’ aggression in the Middle East region that recently resulted in the deaths of three U.S. servicemembers. The U.S. and Western allies have been involved in heightened conflict with Iran-backed proxies in the Middle East amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said during a press briefing after the strikes on Friday that the Biden administration “did inform the Iraqi government prior to the strikes occurring.”
Yet, State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said during a press briefing Monday that the U.S. did not inform the Iraqi government of the strikes until after they occurred on Friday.
“Iraq, like every country in the region, understood there would be a response after the deaths of our soldiers,” Patel said during the briefing. “As for the specific response on Friday, there was not a pre-notification, we informed the Iraqis immediately after the strikes occurred.”
One senior administration official said that the Iraqi government had not been given “a huge heads up” but it “is not accurate to see they weren’t informed, NBC News reported on Saturday. The Iraqi government claims it received no prior notice and condemned the strikes, claiming that they led to civilian deaths and damage to infrastructure.
“As well Iraq further emphasized its rejection to be a ground for settling scores between rival countries, as our country is not a place for sending messages, and show of force between adversaries,” the Iraqi government said in a statement on Sunday.
Some lawmakers and defense experts felt that the Biden administration gave the Iranian-backed militia groups too much time to prepare for the U.S. retaliatory strikes, as five days had already passed since the three servicemembers were killed in a drone attack in Jordan. One U.S. official said that several of the Iran-backed groups had already moved much of their operations out of facilities in Iraq and Syria ahead of the strikes.
The White House National Security Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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