May 20, 2019
After a rocket landed near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, President Donald Trump tweeted an ominous warning to Tehran saying, “If Iran wants to fight, that will the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again.”
Reports say there were no casualties as a Katyusha rocket exploded less than one kilometer from the U.S. Embassy Sunday evening May 19. It was the first such rocket attack in the Green Zone — a high security area where many foreign and Iraqi officials, including parliament and the prime minister, are based — since September.
An Iraqi military spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Rasul, told the AP that the rocket fell near Iraq’s statue of the Unknown Soldier, and is being investigated. Rasul said the rocket is believed to have been fired from the eastern part of Baghdad, which is where some Iranian backed militias are based.
But AFP reported that a police source said the rocket was “fired from an open field” in southern Baghdad.
For the first time in days, Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander spoke about the ongoing tensions in the Persian Gulf on May 19, saying that Iran does not seek war, but is not afraid of it either. He was quoted by Fars news agency as saying, “fear of war” is what distinguishes Iran from the United States, adding, “America is afraid of war and does not have the will for it”.
The United States accused Iran last year of targeting U.S. installations. After Washington shut down its consulate in the southern Iraqi city of Basra last year, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iranian militants for “indirect fire” on the building.
The Katyusha rocket attack came the same day that U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil evacuated around 60 foreign staff from an oil field in Iraq. Iraqi Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban said in a May 19 statement that Exxon Mobil’s decision was “unacceptable and unjustified” and had “nothing to do with the security situation or threats in the oilfields in of southern Iraq.”
Washington has ordered a beefing up of U.S. military assets in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, citing possible threats from Iran, and the State Department had ordered the evacuation of all nonessential personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on May 15.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on May 16 warned U.S. commercial airliners flying over the waters of the Persian Gulf that they risk being misidentified.
Iran has dismissed the allegations from Washington that there were “imminent threats” from Tehran and accused the United States of an “unacceptable” escalation of tensions.
Last May, Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 landmark nuclear deal which curtailed Iran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for relief from crippling sanctions. Since then Washington has steadily stepped up its rhetoric and reimposed sanctions.
Early this month, Trump dispatched an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf, as well as an amphibious assault ship and a Patriot missile battery. Both sides have said they do not want a war.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on May 19 that Riyadh also does not want military conflict with Iran but said “if the other side chooses war, the [Saudi] Kingdom will fight this with all the force and determination and it will defend itself, its citizens, and its interests.” Saudi Arabia claims that two of its oil tankers were targeted last week in an act of sabotage of the coast of the United Arab Emirates. Iran-supported Houthi rebels also claimed responsibility for a drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline.