Iran Says Middle East Peace Depends on U.S. Withdrawal, but Iraq Attacks Continue

Iran has again demanded that U.S. troops leave Syria in the interests of regional peace, even as militia attacks continue against American and allied targets across the border in Iraq.

At least seven rockets landed at the Al-Balad airbase north of the capital Baghdad on Monday night. They caused no casualties or damage according to base officials. Another five rockets landed in a nearby village.

Earlier in the day, a bomb attack reportedly targeted an American convoy near the southern city of Basra, also causing no casualties. Another roadside bomb attack on an American convoy last week south of Baghdad was claimed by an Iran-backed militia group.

No group has claimed responsibility for either attack, though both bear the hallmarks of regular operations by Shi'ite Iran-backed militia groups agitating for all American and allied troops to leave the country.

These low-level attacks are straining ties between the U.S. and Iran as President Joe Biden looks to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal with Tehran.

Biden is having to juggle the goal with deterring more attacks, and last month launched airstrikes on Iran-aligned Iraqi militia targets in Syria in retaliation for an earlier rocket attack on the Erbil International Airport that killed one civilian contractor and wounded several Americans.

Iran has repeatedly denied involvement in recent attacks in Iraq, and has criticized Biden for retaliating. On Monday, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht Ravanchi again condemned Biden, just hours before the latest attacks in Iraq.

"Neither the Syrian people will accept the continued occupation of their territory or violation of their sovereignty, nor must the international community accept this, as it runs counter to the cardinal principles of international law," Ravanchi said.

"We once again call for the immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces present in Syria without the permission of its government, particularly U.S. forces that continue to occupy parts of the Syrian territory."

Iranian officials have long pushed for all American troops to leave the Middle East and West Asia, with military leaders threatening force to eject them if necessary. Iraq and Syria are particular focuses of Iranian leaders seeking to undermine U.S. influence.

Iranian forces have long been deployed in Syria at the invitation of President Bashar al-Assad, along with Russian troops also supporting the dictator's push to reclaim control of the entire war-torn nation.

Iran's presence in Syria is part of its regional network of influence, which has won Tehran significant pull in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and the Palestinian territories.

Ravanchi denied any Iranian role in the recent attacks in Iraq. "The Islamic Republic of Iran has not been directly or indirectly involved in any armed attack against any U.S. individual or body in Iraq," he said at the UN.

"Therefore, we deny any claim about our implicit or explicit involvement in attacks against American forces in Iraq. Such allegations are totally baseless, invalid, and false."

The attacks could yet undermine any JCPOA revival, which Tehran needs to relieve the pressure of tough American sanctions imposed by former President Donald Trump after he ended U.S. compliance with the deal in 2018.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani—whose term ends this summer—said Monday that the government is still working to overcome the effects of the sanctions, admitting it was "difficult" and posed "challenges."

US troops pictured in Syria
U.S. soldiers are pictured near an oil production facility at an unspecified location in Syria on October 27,2020 U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jensen Guillory