John Kirby apologises
White House walks back claims it pre-notified Iraq over strikes
WASHINGTON — The U.S. government has clarified earlier statements regarding notifications to the Iraqi government prior to military strikes against Iran-backed militia groups.
John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, issued a public apology, correcting his previous assertions about the notifications provided to Iraqi officials before the operations were conducted.
The diplomatic faux pas began following a U.S. military action in the Middle East, initially described by officials as a precise operation targeting facilities associated with Iran-backed militias. During an on-the-record press call on Feb. 2, Kirby and Lieutenant General Sims outlined the strategic capabilities of American forces and confirmed that the Iraqi government had been informed prior to the strikes. Kirby specifically stated, “And on Iraq, Phil, we did inform the Iraqi government prior to the strikes occurring.”
However, the Iraqi government swiftly denied receiving any advance warning from the U.S., leading to a diplomatic spat. The Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs delivered a note of protest to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, condemning the strikes as “American aggression” and alleging civilian casualties.
Amid growing scrutiny, the White House, followed by a State Department acknowledgment, revealed that the Iraqi officials had not been given advance notice of the strikes for “operational security” reasons. This disclosure contradicted Kirby’s initial statements, prompting questions about the communication and decision-making process within the U.S. administration.
On Feb. 6, Kirby addressed the issue during an on-the-record press gaggle, where he referenced a statement he had issued the day before. In this statement, Kirby admitted to mistakenly informing the public and officials about the pre-notification to the Iraqi government, based on the early information available to him at the time.
He expressed deep apologies for the mistake and the confusion it caused, stating, “I’m sure many of you saw the statement that I issued yesterday, correcting what I had said Friday night about pre-notification to Iraqi officials on Friday night before the strikes that we took on facilities related to the Iran-backed militia groups. And I deeply apologize for the error, and I regret any confusion that it caused.”