January 3, 2021 will be the first anniversary of the assassination of Iranian Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani. For the whole year the USA and official Baghdad have been waiting for the response action from IRGC and Iraqi Shia forces. The first respond action from Iran took place on January 8, when the U.S. military bases were hit by rocket strikes. However, Iran and its Iraqi allies were satisfied with this only action.
Iraqi capital Baghdad is on high alert amid the reports of possible “complex attack” on the Green Zone and Baghdad airport.
Iraqi security forces were deployed in the Green Zone of Baghdad that hosts Iraqi government and international offices, including U.S. embassy. Strict security measures were deployed around US Embassy on the orders of Iraqi Prime-Minister, Mustafa al-Qadimi.
The U.S. has been actively reinforcing its military in Iraq in the recent days. On December 30, the U.S. deployed two B-52 bombers to the region.
The Middle East Monitor reported that the US had recently provided the Iraqi army with 30 armored vehicles in order to reinforce the security of the Green Zone. The MEMO cited the statement of the US embassy:
“The United States is committed to helping the Iraqi army maintain the security of Baghdad and Iraq,” adding that Washington had provided the Iraqi army with “30 armoured cars to help secure the international zone.”
The vehicles were delivered to the Special Command Division at Al-Assad Air Base in the western Iraqi province of Anbar. According to the report by U.S. embassy, the provision was only a “part of a larger plan by the US military’s Office of Security Cooperation with Iraq to support the SCD in securing the center of Baghdad.”
Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems that are deployed at the Al-Assad Air Base were reportedly put on high alert in anticipation of a possible strike.
The reports about the coming attack were cited from the documents leaked from the Iraqi Ministry of Interior. These documents claimed the preparations to target the Green Zone and Baghdad airport. However, no information about the parties intending to attack U.S. facilities was provided.
The Green Zone in Baghdad is regularly targeted by rocket attacks. The last one, which was carried out on December 20, struck the U.S. Embassy, causing no casualties. It provoked increased tensions between Iraqi government and some factions of Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), like pro-Iranian Kata’ib Hezbollah, which denied any responsibility on the side of the Iraqi groups.
“It is our right to liberate our country and avenge our martyrs, but we specify the time to respond and it is not far away”. – Qais al-Khazali, the leader of Kata’ib Hezbollah said, probably suggesting the January 3.
On December 30th, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reminded that the assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani would not go unpunished, threatening D. Trump personally.
The threat of the attacks on U.S. positions is growing. However, during the whole year, the U.S. had paid no price for the assassination. In the days after Gen. Soleimani’s death, Iran did launch a wave of missiles at U.S. positions in Iraq, though no deaths were reported. The plan to carry out “the complex operation” on the date of the anniversary seems to be hardly implemented; however, such reports justify the sharp increase of the U.S. military presence in Iraq in the recent days. It is possible that Washington is exploiting the pretext of growing threat of Iranian vengeance to consolidate its military forces in close proximity to Iran. These steps fit into the logic of a close military campaign against Iran in January or February 2021.
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