The attacks on the US embassy in Iraq, motives and prospects

Prepared by the researcher: Muhammad Shaban Abdulaziz – specialist in international relations

  • Arab Democratic Center

The US embassy in Iraq has been subjected to bomb attacks more than once over the past few years, and the strikes have increased on US interests in Iraq, which in one way or another led to a reduction in the number of American forces present in Iraq as a result of repeated political and military pressures. However, these data have been subject to a point. A major shift through the US signal to close its embassy in Iraq after the repeated attacks in the vicinity of the embassy and in the Green Zone in which the US embassy in Iraq is located, which raises the question of the US State’s ability to escalate the situation and close the US embassy in Iraq?

The US State Department’s motives for closing the US embassy in Baghdad:

There are overt and hidden motives for threatening the US State Department to threaten the embassy, ​​and with regard to overt motives related to the increasing frequency of attacks against the US embassy in and around Baghdad. These militias targeted the headquarters of the American coalition forces against (ISIS), and the attacks of these militias were not limited to the US embassy and US interests, but extended to reach a group of Arab and European missions, the facilities and offices of the World Food Program of the United Nations Organization and some oil companies distributed in various regions of Iraq.

The number of armed attacks by militias armed with Katyusha rockets and drones during the first quarter of 2020 towards American, foreign and international facilities and targets reached (11) attacks, and the frequency of attacks continued in the second quarter of 2020 to about (19) armed attacks that continued. The frequency of attacks in the militant against American and foreign installations increased in the third quarter of 2020 to about 27 attacks.

Armed attacks with explosive devices on American and foreign convoys and trucks also increased from 24 attacks in the first quarter of this year to 27 attacks in the second quarter of this year.

With regard to the hidden motives for the US State Department’s threat, the most important of these motives is the US administration’s fear, led by Trump, of a repetition of the scenario of the events of the US embassy in Benghazi in 2012, and the American hostage crisis in the US embassy in Iran in the wake of the Iranian revolution, as the US hostage crisis in Tehran was one of the reasons for failure Carter in taking over a second US term, especially since the repeated strong attacks against the US embassy in Iran add to the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, to take over the US presidency and Trump’s failure to win a second term in the hope of re-working the Iranian agreement and finding a solution to the increasing sanctions on Iran, which lost $ 150 billion. According to the statements of Iranian President Rouhani, especially that Iran cannot direct a direct and explicit military strike to the United States of America.

The most important Iraqi efforts to contain the crisis:

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi visited the United States of America in August 2020 within the framework of the strategic dialogue between the US and Iraqi government regarding the repeated attacks on the US embassy and facilities in Iraq, that dialogue that began in May of 2020, which was described by officials of the two countries as of a positive nature. It aims to establish peace and reduce the number of armed attacks on US installations.

But the practical reality does not reflect this, as the frequency of armed attacks with improvised explosive devices increased on US interests, most notably the targeting of the US embassy in Baghdad and other US-allied diplomatic missions, where British cars with a diplomatic status were targeted with an explosive device on September 15, 2020.

Despite the continued efforts of the Iraqi Prime Minister to confront the armed militia, these attacks continue and are increasing, as September 2020 witnessed dozens of attacks against US military vehicles and convoys.

The leader of the Sadrist movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, led an initiative supported by Prime Minister Al-Kazemi to form a special committee to investigate the repeated attacks against the US embassy in Baghdad, which was rejected by some leaders who lead the subversive militias, most notably Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq in a statement by Asaib Ahl al-Haq in a statement by its leader, Qais Khazali, where He said: There is no issue in Iraq called targeting diplomatic and cultural institutions. Rather, what is available is targeting the Embassy of the United States of America because it is the embassy of a country that occupies Iraq,

Akram al-Kaabi, commander of the Nujaba militia, said, “We are still waiting for official positions from the official forces of all forces regarding the military barracks violating Iraqi sovereignty, which America placed in central Baghdad in the name of the embassy that carries out corruption and tampering with the interests of Iraq.” . (Farsi, October: 2020).

The most important measures of the Iraqi government:

The Iraqi government, under the leadership of Al-Kazemi, has taken several decision-making measures to reduce the activity of militias and armed factions in Iraq, but these measures did not succeed in achieving their desired goal, as the government failed to seize the illegal weapons that attack the American facilities, the most important of which is the embassy.

Accordingly, the US State Department represented by its Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a strongly worded message to the Iraqi government in order to increase pressure on and embarrass the Iraqi leadership in order to take more robust measures to confront the militias that carry out armed attacks against the US embassy and threatened that the continuation of these armed attacks will have consequences. Political

Accordingly, the Iraqi government has taken additional measures to contain the crisis, the most important of which are:

– On September 25, 2020, the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi announced the closure of the offices of the Popular Mobilization Forces and some hard-line Iraqi factions at Baghdad International Airport, in addition to the closure of offices of the National Security Agency and the Integrity and Accountability Commission and the dismissal of some active members and leaders on September 26, 2020 Kamal was done Some of the changes, including the appointment of the former defense minister, Khaled al-Ubaidi, as an agent for operations affairs in the National Intelligence Service, the head of the Popular Mobilization Authority was removed from his position as a national security advisor, and the former Minister of Interior, Qasim al-Araji, was appointed instead.

On September 26, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein visited Iran, and the visit aimed to persuade Iran to put pressure on the militias and put an end to those attacks.

On September 28, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Al-Sahhaf announced that he had disclosed to the Iranian president the new vision for the Iraqi government’s dealing with militias.

– A joint statement was made on September 27, in coordination between President Barham Salih, Prime Minister Mustafa Kazemi and Parliament Speaker Muhammad al-Halbousi, whereby the government’s efforts were emphasized in restricting weapons in the hands of the state and reducing the targeting of diplomatic missions, and adhering to the decisions of the strategic dialogue with the United States of America. (Abdel Moneim, September, 2020).

The consequences of Biden winning the US presidential elections:

Biden’s victory in the presidency of the United States of America represented a major turning point, something that was not expected by the Republicans, led by Trump, but Trump took a set of measures, the most important of which was reducing the number of American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, so that American soldiers in Iraq would be reduced from 3,000 to 2,500 soldiers. This represents a reversal of Trump’s announcement of the complete withdrawal of US soldiers from Iraq by early 2021.

After this announcement, White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien confirmed that Trump hoped that all US forces would return from Afghanistan and Iraq by May.

“By May, President Trump hopes that all of them will be safely home,” O’Brien said.

But the Senate majority leader, who belongs to the Republican Party, warned that the United States would make any rapid changes in defense or foreign policy, including its policy towards  Iraq and  Afghanistan.

McConnell said, “It is very important here in the next two months not to make any major changes with regard to defense or policy.” He added that “the significant reduction in the number of American forces in Afghanistan or Iraq would be a mistake.” (France, 2020).

Hence, it can be said that the withdrawal of US forces in Iraq was partially completed and placed the next US administration led by Biden in a security and political challenge in light of the complexity of the field conditions in Iraq, which highlights a very important point related to the ability of the United States of America to protect its embassy and sponsorship in Iraq.

Potential effects on Iraq if the embassy is closed

Although the pressure on the Iraqi government leads to many benefits and positive effects, which lead to more measures aimed at reducing armed attacks on US interests, most notably the US embassy in Baghdad, it is expected that a number of results and scenarios will occur as follows:


The increased threat to close or actually close the embassy could lead to an increase in the intensity of internal conflicts in Iraq between the parties and militias funded by Iran and those opposed to Iran, which could increase the security tension in conjunction with the increase in the anger of the Iraqi people as a result of poor economic and living conditions, which led to the exit Demonstrations in October 2019 All of these factors cannot be addressed in isolation from the security threats to the US embassy.

The possibility of an American-Iranian war on Iraqi soil

If the security threats against the US embassy continue, this could lead to further escalation, which could lead to a US-Iranian war on Iraqi soil between the Iranian-backed militias and the militia forces loyal to the Iraqi government and the United States of America.

Imposing economic sanctions on Iraq and isolating it internationally

In the event of the closure of the US embassy in Iraq, the US diplomatic and military operations in Iraq will not stop. Rather, it is expected that in this case punitive measures will be taken by the United States of America and its allies. This hypothesis is confirmed by the statement of the Iraqi Prime Minister on September 29, 2020, where he talked about the continuous attacks On the foreign missions, she called on foreign institutions and bodies to consider closing their embassy, ​​especially the United States of America.

Based on the foregoing, if these foreign bodies are closed, led by the United States of America and its allies, the possibility of imposing international sanctions on Iraq becomes possible (Bilal, October: 2020).


From the above, it can be said that the recurrence of armed terrorist attacks on the US embassy in Iraq led to diplomatic efforts to negotiate at one time, and to pressure and threaten from another time, and as a result of the accelerating pace of those attacks with the approaching US presidential elections, the US Secretary of State announced that The continued deteriorating security situation in the US embassy and its surroundings in the Green Zone in Baghdad means the closure of the US embassy in Iraq, which will lead to many negative effects and consequences at the internal and external levels.

Those who carry out the attacks on the US embassy in Iraq are militias, most of which are supported by Iran, meaning that the targeting of the US embassy is mainly about Iranian-American differences, the most prominent of which is the failure of the Iranian nuclear agreement, and it is one of the tools that Iran is putting pressure on the United States indirectly beside the killing of Soleimani, one of the most important The Iranian political and military leaderships by the US forces, the repeated targeting of the US embassy in Baghdad, touches the core of the US’s sovereignty and the ability of its foreign affairs and its leadership to protect US interests in Iraq despite the governmental efforts made by the Al-Kazemi government to reduce the attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad.

Accordingly, it can be said that the American negotiation was successful in theory through negotiations with the Al-Kazemi government, and then the threat directly and escalating that threat to the point of closing the embassy, ​​but the real data do not take place according to the desire of the United States of America or the Al-Kazemi government. This may be due to a set of reasons, the most important of which is The state of high polarization by many military forces on the part of Iran, and the deterioration of the economic and social conditions has increased the state of insecurity increasing with the exit of many Iraqis to the streets in order to change the economic, social and political conditions, and the collective awareness of many Iraqis is linked to feelings of hostility towards the states The United States of America that invaded Iraq in 2003, which puts the next US administration in front of a clear challenge in the near future.


1- Zayan Farsi, The US Threat to Close the US Embassy in Iraq, Motives and Repercussions, The International Institute for Iranian Studies, October, 2020 is published at the following link:

2- Muhammad Abdel Moneim, The escalation of tension in Iraq, a study published on the official website of the Egyptian Observatory, September, 2020 at the following link:

3- Wahab Bilal and others, The dangers of closing the US embassy in Iraq, a study published on The Washington Institute for Studies, October, 2020 published at the following link:

4- Trump and the reduction of US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, French news agency (France 24) published on November 17, 2020 at the following link:

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Relations in addition to a Master's degree in International Security Studies. Alongside this, I have a passion for web development. During my studies, I acquired a strong understanding of fundamental political concepts and theories in international relations, security studies, and strategic studies.

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