İrem UZUN -TDO- Iran warned the United States it is leading the Middle East to disaster amid the coronavirus pandemic after reports that Patriot air defense missiles were deployed to Iraq. The U.S. deployment runs "counter to the official position of the Iraqi government, parliament and people", a foreign ministry statement said on Wednesday. It called for a halt to "warmongering during the coronavirus outbreak" and warned U.S. military activities in the region could lead it to "instability and disaster".

Washington had been in talks with Baghdad about the proposed deployment since January but it was not immediately clear whether it had secured its approval or not. Iran, which wields huge influence in its western neighbour, said that it had not. U.S. forces should "respect the wishes of the Iraqi people and government and leave the country," the Iranian foreign ministry added. One of the Patriot batteries was delivered to the Ain al-Asad in western Iraq last week and is now being assembled, a U.S. defense official and an Iraqi military source said. Ain al-Asad was hit by a retaliatory Iranian missile strike in January after Washington killed Tehran's foreign operations chief Major General Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike just outside Baghdad airport. A second battery was deployed to a base in Arbil, capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region. Two more are still in Kuwait, where Washington has rear bases for its operations in Iraq, the U.S. official said.

Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi militia group, has vowed to resist any attack by U.S. forces after reports emerged in U.S. media this week of a planned assault on Iranian proxies. Mohammed Mohei, spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah, told pro-Hezbollah outlet al-Alam TV on Monday that the group is ready to confront any U.S. attack. “The U.S. has targeted the resistance groups inside and outside Iraq several times, but all the attacks have strengthened us more and more,” Mohei said.

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