Pompeo Speaks With Iraqi PM, Shares U.S. Assessment Of Iranian Blame For Attacks

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke by phone with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, emphasizing “our shared desire for a strong, free, and sovereign Iraq,” the State Department said.

Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said on June 14 that Pompeo thanked the prime minister for Iraq’s continued efforts to counter threats to Iraq’s sovereignty from Iran-backed militias.

Pompeo reiterated the U.S. commitment to upholding freedom of navigation in the region in the wake of attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman that Washington has blamed on Iran. Tehran has denied involvement.

The U.S. spokeswoman said Pompeo shared “our assessment that Iran was responsible for attacking two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.”

She said Pompeo thanked Mahdi for his commitment to protect U.S. personnel in Iraq and said Washington will continue to help Iraq build up its security forces.

Iraq has strong ties to both the United States and neighboring Iran. Washington provides military, political, and financial aid, while Tehran has great influence with Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslim population and aids militia groups operating in Iraq.

Mahdi last month met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Baghdad to discuss the “dangers of a war” in the region amid soaring tensions between the United States and Iran.

Mahdi on May 21 said Iraq is “playing a role to calm the situation, but it is not a mediation.”

Mahdi added at the time that Iranian and U.S. officials had informed Baghdad that they have “no desire in fighting a war.”

Relations between Tehran and Washington have plummeted since the United States a year ago pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal that curbed Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions.

Since then, Washington has stepped up its rhetoric and reimposed sanctions.

Washington has ordered a beefing up of U.S. military assets in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, citing “imminent threats” from Iran, and ordered the evacuation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Iraq.

With reporting by AP and AFP