The United States did not notify the Iraqi government ahead of U.S. military strikes inside the country on Friday, a State Department spokesperson said Monday, countering an earlier White House message that Baghdad was told ahead of time.
“There was not a pre-notification” and Washington “informed the Iraqis immediately after the strikes occurred,” Vedant Patel told reporters.
“Iraq, like every country in the region, understood that there would be a response after the deaths of our soldiers,” he added.
The statement contradicts comments made by National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby, who told reporters Friday that the United States “did inform the Iraqi government prior to the strikes occurring.”
On Monday, Kirby told Politico that he “responded with information that I had been provided at the time,” and that it was “not as specific as it could have been, and I regret any confusion caused.”
And at the Pentagon, press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder did not answer a question on why the Iraqi government was not notified ahead of the U.S. strikes.
“They are a valued partner. We’ll continue to work closely with them, consult with them closely,” Ryder said.
He added: “We have consistently communicated to the Iraqis and others that we reserve the right to defend our personnel from attacks by Iranian-backed militants in Iraq.”
American forces late Friday began major airstrikes on more than 85 targets across seven locations in Iraq and Syria, a response to a drone strike in Jordan that killed three American soldiers last month. The U.S. troops struck Iranian-backed proxies that have ramped up their own attacks on American service members in the region since October.
But the bombings have angered Iraq, with its officials displeased their country has become the battleground where Iranian groups clash with U.S. troops – 2,500 of which are based there to help quell the resurgence of the Islamic State terrorist group.
Washington and Baghdad last month began formal discussions about the future of America’s military mission in Iraq.
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