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Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder confirmed yesterday that just a few hours earlier, the U.S. killed a leader of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces in downtown Baghdad. “I can confirm that on Jan. 4 at approximately 12 p.m. Iraq time [GMT+2], U.S. forces took necessary and proportionate action against Mushtaq Jawad Kazim al-Jawari, aka Abu Taqwa, who was a Harakat-al-Nujaba [HAN] leader,” he told reporters during a Pentagon press briefing. “Abu Taqwa was actively involved in planning and carrying out attacks against American personnel. The strike also killed another HAN member, and it is important to note that the strike was taken in self-defense, that no civilians were harmed and that no infrastructure or facilities were struck.” Ryder refused to answer questions about the strike, beyond repeating what he said in his initial statement. He wouldn’t even say whether or not the U.S. consulted with the Iraqi government prior to the strike.

Harakat-al-Nujaba is a component militia of the Popular Mobilization Forces, the umbrella organization of Shi’ite militias that arose during the war against ISIS after 2014 and is nominally under the authority of the Defense Ministry. However, it was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. in 2019. Ryder also repeatedly referred to HAN as “Iran-backed.” (Iran’s Muslim population are largely Shi’a.)

In Iraq, the U.S. strike in Baghdad has had the effect of increasing the pressure on the government of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani to kick the U.S. military out of the country. The Secretary-General of the Badr Organization, Hadi Al-Amiri, strongly condemned the American assassination of Abu Taqwa Al-Saidi. Al-Amiri stressed that the Iraqi government bears responsibility for any neglect in demanding the immediate withdrawal of the U.S.-led Coalition from Iraq, considering that their presence constitutes a “threat to the security and safety of the Iraqi people and a blatant violation of Iraqi sovereignty.”

The pressure to kick out American troops from Iraq was already building before yesterday’s strike. The day before, Shahid al-Dawoodi, assistant head of the PMF Operations in Nineveh Province, told the Erbil-based Rudaw news site: “We are calling on the Iraqi government to make a bold decision to expel the foreign and American forces. The Islamic Resistance can take matters into its own hands to make justice prevail over injustice.”