US killing catapults Iraq back to aftermath of 2003 invasion
Iraqi factions threatening to oust US troops, officials denouncing American “violations” and fears of a new Gulf war: a US strike has catapulted Iraq back to the tumultuous aftermath of the 2003 invasion.
The precision drone strike outside Baghdad airport on Friday killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani and his Iraqi right-hand-man, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
Within hours, United Nations chief Antonio Guterres urged leaders to exercise restraint.
“The world cannot afford another war in the Gulf,” he said.
The US attack was the most dramatic escalation yet in a feared proxy war between Iran and the US on Iraqi soil.
It also opened the door to fierce criticism of the US, harkening back to the years following the American-led invasion that toppled ex-dictator Saddam Hussein.
“The narrative of anti-Americanism is coming back,” said Renad Mansour of the London-based Chatham House.
“America hasn’t done something this aggressive in a while, so it has brought back memories of the American military occupation of Iraq, as well as the same language and discourse,” he told AFP.
Iraq’s premier, Adel Abdel Mahdi, condemned the strike as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and of the US military’s mandate in the country.
Around 5,200 American forces are deployed across Iraq to train and advise local troops targeting the remnants of the Islamic State group.
Pro-Iran factions had for months been urging parliament to revoke the bilateral agreement allowing US troops in Iraq, and Mansour said the strike could bolster their argument.
“They tried to use anti-Americanism before but no one really bought it. Now, it feels like they have more ammunition and justification to make anti-Americanism a bigger narrative,” he told AFP.