TEHRAN

Iran on Monday termed a rocket attack on the US Embassy in Iraq as “unacceptable”, but questioned the timing of the violence.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a press briefing that attacks on diplomatic and residential areas were “not acceptable”, but said the timing was “dubious”.

He, however, questioned remarks by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who blamed Iran-backed militia groups for the attack, saying the statement appeared to have been “prepared in advance”.

A barrage of rockets targeted the US Embassy in the highly-fortified Green Zone in Baghdad on Sunday, causing injuries among Iraqi security personnel and caused “minor damage” to the embassy compound.

The Iraqi military blamed “an outlawed group” for the attack, which comes weeks before the first anniversary of the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a US drone airstrike in Iraq.

Pompeo said Iran-backed militias had “again flagrantly and recklessly attacked in Baghdad”, and that the “destabilizing actions” must end.

But Khatibzadeh said that Iran “warns the Trump regime not to fan the flames of war these days”.

Sunday’s rocket attack was deflected by the US Embassy’s C-RAM defense system. “We call on all Iraqi political and governmental leaders to take steps to prevent such attacks and hold accountable those responsible,” the embassy said in a statement.

The frequency of rocket attacks on the US diplomatic mission in Baghdad’s Green Zone has increased since Soleimani’s killing earlier this year, which heightened tensions between the long-time adversaries.

While the US has blamed the Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq, especially the Kataib Hezbollah group, Iran maintains that it has no control over them.

Interestingly, Kataib Hezbollah also issued a statement, terming the latest attack on the US Embassy “out of order”.

In September, the Trump administration had threatened to close its embassy in Baghdad if the Iraqi government failed to take action against the militia groups targeting US forces.

There are presently 5,000 US soldiers stationed in Iraq, mainly involved in counter-terrorism operations and in training Iraqi forces.

Earlier this month, in anticipation of possible retaliatory strikes ahead of Soleimani’s assassination anniversary on Jan. 3, the US withdrew some of its embassy staff in Baghdad.

While Iran has always rejected claims of responsibility for the attacks on the US Embassy in Iraq, many top Iranian military and political figures have vowed “revenge” for Soleimani’s killing.

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