Secretary of Defense Mark Esper asked Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi in a phone call Monday to help stop rocket attacks that have been targeting bases housing American troops, according to a statement from the Iraqi prime minister’s office.
The call from Esper follows at least 10 rocket attacks that have targeted U.S. bases and interests in Iraq over the last five weeks. Iran-backed militias are believed to be behind a number of the attacks.
A U.S. official told Military Times that Iran-backed militias are now using more lethal and longer range 122mm rockets in their attacks.
“We must also use this opportunity to remind Iran’s leaders that any attacks by them, or their proxies of any identity, that harm Americans, our allies, or our interests will be answered with a decisive U.S. response.”
Esper “expressed his concern over targeting of some places, and the necessity to the need to take measures to stop that,” according to a readout of the call provided by Abdul Mahdi’s office.
The Pentagon has yet to release a readout of the call with the Iraqi prime minister’s office.
Abdul Mahdi expressed “concern” over the rocket attacks but also warned that “unilateral decisions will have negative reactions that are difficult to control” and could threaten the sovereignty of Iraq.
On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran and its leaders of a “decisive U.S. response” if the regime or its militias harm American troops or allies in the region.
“We must also use this opportunity to remind Iran’s leaders that any attacks by them, or their proxies of any identity, that harm Americans, our allies, or our interests will be answered with a decisive U.S. response,” Pompeo said in a statement on Friday.
Operation Inherent Resolve — the U.S.-led mission to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria — reiterated it’s forces’ right to self defense following the rocket attacks.
“We take the recent rocket attacks in Iraq seriously as do our Iraqi Security Forces partners, who are investigating these events,” OIR said in an emailed statement to Military Times.
“We have made clear that attacks on U.S. and Coalition personnel and facilities will not be tolerated and we retain the right to defend ourselves,” OIR said.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill Wednesday expressed concern regarding the U.S. military’s ability to effectively deter Iran’s malign behavior.
“Iran should not mistake the United States’ restraint for an unwillingness to respond with decisive military force should our forces or interests be attacked," Esper told lawmakers Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
Reuters first reported the call between Esper and Abdul Mahdi.