US refuses Baghdad request to discuss Iraq troop withdrawal

US refuses Baghdad request to discuss Iraq troop withdrawal
3 min read
10 January, 2020
Iraq's parliament last week passed a non-binding resolution to oust US troops from the country
Iraqi lawmakers voted to oust the US military last week [Getty]
The United States on Friday refused a request by Iraq's caretaker prime minister to begin preparations to pull out its 5,200 troops in the country.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Thursday told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to send a delegation to Iraq tasked with formulating the withdrawal of US troops from the country, according to a statement released on Friday.

"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.

Iraq's parliament last week passed a non-binding resolution to oust US troops from the country.

The move came on the heels of a US drone strike in Baghdad that killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and nine others, including the powerful deputy commander of an Iraqi network of militias, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Abdul Mahdi said Iraq rejects all violations of its sovereignty, including the attacks carried out by Iranian forces against US troops in Iraq on Wednesday.

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," his office said in a statement.

The State Department has defended the US troop presence as aimed at fighting the Islamic State extremist group.

"America is a force for good in the Middle East," Ortagus said.

"We want to be a friend and partner to a sovereign, prosperous and stable Iraq," she added.

After a withdrawal ordered by former president Barack Obama, US troops were invited back in 2014 to help defeat the extremist Islamic State group.

Despite Abdul Mahdi's condemnation of both American and Iranian "violations" of Iraqi sovereignity, his government in Baghdad is widely seen by protesters as beholden to Tehran.

Iraq has witnessed an unprecedented mass protest movement since early October. A bloody crackdown on the demonstrations, which have mostly taken place in the capital and southern Iraq, has killed almost 500 people.

The country's top Shia Muslim authority on Friday condemned both powers for theatening to plunge war-torn Iraq deeper into conflict.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani said the series of attacks by both countries were a violation of Iraqi sovereignity and no foreign powers should be allowed to decide the country's fate, Reuters reported.

"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 in a weekly message delivered by a representative during Friday prayers in the holy city of Karbala.

"The [Iraqi] people have suffered enough from wars... Iraq must govern itself and there must be no role for outsiders in its decision-making."

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