Coming less than within an hour of President Trump announcing his troop draw down order in Iraq and Afghanistan Tuesday afternoon, a hail of rockets fell near the US embassy in Baghdad.
Local and regional reports say at least five rockets were fired on the fortified Green Zone in Iraq’s capital and that four struck near the American compound.
The US embassy’s C-RAM system, or “Counter rocket, artillery, and mortar” defense weapon, was activated in response to the inbound rocket fire.
The timing seems clearly intentional, given international headlines at that very moment circulated the US announced plans to reduce its troop levels in Iraq.
Trump ordered the Pentagon to accelerate a drawdown of US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq to 2,500 , as the president works to deliver on his longtime pledge to exit from “endless wars” before he leaves office January 20. Current estimates put US troop levels in Iraq at over 3,000.
In both Iraq and Afghanistan Trump’s advisers have reportedly been urging the commander-in-chief to avoid pulling everyone out, reducing US presence down to ‘zero’.
American generals have feared in the case of Iraq a dramatic rapid US exit would fully cede the country to Iranian influence – however, Tehran’s influence was assured the moment the Bush administration overthrew Iran’s worst enemy Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Past rocket attacks on the US embassy, which almost never score direct hits or cause injuries on American personnel – also given its advanced anti-rocket defense systems are on alert and frequently activated – have been widely blamed on Iran-backed Iraqi Shia militia.
There are reports from correspondents on the ground saying at least one young Iraqi civilian was killed and five other Iraqis injured as a result of the attack:
“Rocket attacks in Baghdad tonight as US announces troop drawdown. A baby was killed, 5 Iraqis were wounded. Attacks on US-linked interests in Iraq have killed at least 9 people since late last year. Most were Iraqi,” said Washington Post’s Louisa Loveluck.
— Steven Nabil (@thestevennabil) November 17, 2020
Meanwhile, it seems every time the White House pushes for a sizeable Mideast troop exit, a series of conflict incidents serves to keep the US bogged down and present.