The U.S. did not notify the Iraqi government before conducting airstrikes in the country on Friday, contrary to an assertion by the White House that it did.
During a press call on Friday, White House national security spokesperson retired Adm. John Kirby said, “We did inform the Iraqi government prior to the strikes occurring.”
On Monday, in response to questions from The Intercept, the White House said the Iraqis had not gotten advance warning of the strikes.
“For operational security, we did not provide any kind of official pre-notification with specific details on these strikes,” a National Security Council spokesperson acknowledged.
During Monday’s State Department press briefing, spokesperson Vedant Patel also acknowledged the Iraqis had not gotten a warning. (The State Department had referred The Intercept’s questions to the White House.)
The Iraqi government has denied that the U.S. provided any warning and has alleged that the strikes killed several civilians. On Saturday, the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs delivered an official note of protest to the chargé d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad decrying “American aggression.”
“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,” a readout of the meeting says.
The U.S. airstrikes came in response to attacks by local militant groups in Iraq and Syria, The Iranian-backed groups have escalated their attacks on American targets in the region since the start of Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip.
The U.S. maintains a force of about 2,500 troops in Iraq, a nominal U.S. ally with close ties to neighboring Iran. The American presence, at Iraq’s invitation, is part of an effort to keep remnants of the Islamic State at bay.
Last month, a coalition of the Iran-backed militias took responsibility for a drone attack against a U.S. base in Jordan that resulted in the death of three U.S. service members, a strike they said was motivated by U.S. support for Israel, as The Intercept has previously reported.
The U.S. retaliation last week focused on 85 targets, the largest attack on Iranian-backed militias since Israel’s war on Gaza began.
Despite the rising tensions in the region, the Biden administration has been at pains to say that its strikes are not part of Israel’s war on Gaza.
“I absolutely don’t agree with your description of a ‘same larger conflict,’” Kirby said in response to a question about the regional fighting. Though he was not asked about Israel’s war, Kirby added, “There’s a conflict going on between Israel and Hamas.”
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