Situation Report – Sunday rocket attack targets Baghdad’s Green Zone

On Sunday, July 5, the Iraqi military confirmed that a rocket targeting Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, home to the US Embassy, damaged a nearby home and injured a child. The rocket was launched from the Ali al-Saleh region of Baghdad late Saturday evening. The military said it was able to prevent a second attack and “seized a Katyusha rocket and launcher” that were aimed at the Taji base north of Baghdad, where US troops are also positioned.

In recent months, the Green Zone has been subjected to dozens of attacks. Since the onset of the Iraqi-US strategic dialogue in early June, the Iraqi military has confirmed three separate attacks on the fortified zone.

The attack on Sunday comes 10 days after Iraqi troops arrested more than a dozen Iranian-backed militants who were accused of orchestrating previous rocket attacks on American forces in the Green Zone. Iraqi government officials, under the guidelines of new prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, hoped these arrests would send a message to Iranian-backed forces in the country. The raid targeted the headquarters of Khataib Hezbollah, a vehemently anti-American Iranian export.

Al-Kadhimi has become Iraq’s first prime minister to put up a fight with Iranian-backed armed groups. Khataib Hezbollah is an umbrella group of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). Although PMU groups initially aided in the war against ISIS, many today are tied closely with Iran and are designated as terrorist organizations by the United States. PMU units like Khataib Hezbollah are legally part of the Iraqi security forces, but they also defy Iraqi law and actively support the interests of Iran.

Since prime minister al-Kadhimi took office in May, he has prioritized cracking down on government corruption and pushing out foreign influence in the country. Viewed favorably by the US, al-Kadhimi has opened a series of joint discussions this month. In a press conference last week, US Secretary Mike Pompeo applauded the Iraqi government’s raid last week in a press conference, commending them for “bringing all armed groups under its control, including those firing rockets at Iraqi government facilities.” He added that “the presence of these lawless actors remains the single biggest obstacle to additional assistance or economic investment for the country.”

About Maya Carlin

Maya Carlin is an analyst at the Center for Security Policy, located in Washington D.C. She is also a M.A. candidate in Counter-Terrorism and Homeland Security at IDC Herzliya’s Lauder School of Government in Israel.