Decide mechanism for troop withdrawal, Iraqi PM tells US - GulfToday

Decide mechanism for troop withdrawal, Iraqi PM tells US


Anti-government demonstrators protest in Tahrir Square in Baghdad on Friday. Agence France-Presse

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has told the US secretary of state to send a delegation to Iraq tasked with formulating the mechanism for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, according to a statement released on Friday.

The statement, from the office of the Iraqi caretaker prime minister, said the request came in a telephone call between Abdul-Mahdi and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday night. It says Pompeo called the Iraqi premier.

Abdul-Mahdi’s comments to Pompeo suggests he was standing by his previous statements that US troops should leave Iraq despite recent signals towards de-escalation between Tehran and Washington following the tit-for-tat attacks that brought Iraq to the brink of a proxy war.

The Iraqi prime minister said his country rejects all violations against its sovereignty, including the barrage of ballistic missiles that Iranian forces fired targeting against US troops in Iraq and also America’s violation of Iraq’s airspace in the air strike that killed a top Iranian general last week.

The Iraqi leader asked Pompeo to “send delegates to Iraq to prepare a mechanism to carry out the parliament’s resolution regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq,” the statement said.

“The prime minister said American forces had entered Iraq and drones are flying in its airspace without permission from Iraqi authorities and this was a violation of the bilateral agreements,” the statement added.

Top American military officials including Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and US Defence Secretary Mark Esper have said there were no plans for the US to withdraw from Iraq.

Iraqi lawmakers passed a non-binding resolution to oust US troops following a strike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and senior Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis last Friday.

The United States said on Friday it would not discuss pulling troops from Iraq after its caretaker prime minister asked Washington to send a delegation to begin withdrawal arrangements.

“At this time, any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership — not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

The latest escalation was set off when a rocket attack blamed on the Iranian-backed militia group Kataeb Hizbollah, or Hizbollah Brigades, caused the death of an American contractor at a base in Kirkuk province. The US replied with a barrage of strikes on the militia’s bases, killing at least 25 people.

Iraq’s top cleric on Friday condemned the US-Iranian military confrontation taking place on Iraqi soil, saying it risked plunging the war-ravaged country and the wider Middle East into deeper conflict.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani said attacks by both sides inside Iraq this month showed blatant disregard for Iraqi sovereignty and its people stood to suffer the most from Washington and Tehran’s conflict.

Also on Friday, European foreign ministers gathered in Brussels to find ways to ease the precarious situation that has unfolded in the past week.

In Washington, the US House of Representatives voted on Thursday to stop President Donald Trump from further military action against Iran.

Iranian military commanders threatened more attacks, fuelling worries that the apparent pause in hostilities could be short-lived.

In a message delivered through a representative speaking at Friday prayers in the holy city of Kerbala, Ayatollah Sistani said the series of attacks were a violation of sovereignty and that no foreign powers should be allowed to decide Iraq’s fate.

“The use of over-the-top methods by different sides which possess power and influence...will only entrench the crisis and prevent a solution,” he said.

“The latest dangerous aggressive acts, which are repeated violations of Iraqi sovereignty, are a part of the deteriorating situation” in the region, he said.


Related articles