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US President conducts first visit to Iraq, with responding indirect fire attack conducted in Baghdad

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On the evening of 26 December, US President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump conducted a three-hour visit to al-Asad Air Base in Anbar Province. Trump stated that the reason for the visit was to personally thank them for helping to defeat IS, adding “Two years ago when I became president, they (IS) were a very dominant group, today they’re not so dominant anymore. Great job.” Trump stated that he had “no plans at all” to withdraw US forces from Iraq, adding to the effect that Al Asad Air Base and other bases in western Iraq would promote the enduring capability to conduct operations in Syria if desired. Trump conducted a telephone conversation with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi during his visit.

Shortly following this visit at approximately 05:00 on 27 December, according to multiple sources including the commander of Special Forces in the International Zone Lieutenant-General Karim al-Tamimi, between 2-4 mortar rounds were fired at the US Embassy in central Baghdad. The rounds failed to reach their intended target, with no casualties or damages reported. Credible security sources were unable to verify the type and number of munitions used during the attack. No organization has thus far claimed responsibility for the attack. Despite these information gaps, it is of little doubt that an Iranian-backed Shi’a militia perpetrated the 27 December attack in direct response to President Trump’s unannounced visit to Iraq. Such activity highlights the enduring tensions between the US and Iranian-backed militias, animosities which have been exacerbated by recent sanctions targeting Iran and its military proxies.

 

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