Iraqi prime minister says he asked US to begin planning withdrawal
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi said in a statement on Friday that, in a telephone call the night before, he had asked US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to send a delegation to Baghdad to begin laying the groundwork for a US military withdrawal from the embattled Middle Eastern country.
“His Excellency Prime Minister confirmed that Iraq refused and rejected all operations that violate its sovereignty, including the recent operation that targeted Ain Al-Assad and Erbil,” read the statement, referring to Iranian missile attacks earlier this week on bases that house US and coalition forces.
“His Excellency also asked the US Secretary of State to send delegates to Iraq to lay down the mechanisms for implementing the [Iraqi parliament’s] decision to withdraw forces safely from Iraq.”
In late December, a few days after the US launched a strike on five bases of Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) militias on both sides of the Iraqi–Syrian border, PMF militiamen and their supporters attacked the US embassy in Baghdad.
Washington responded by assassinating leading Iranian military commander Qasim Soleimani and a senior PMF official as their convoy left Baghdad International Airport.
Following these developments, the Iraqi parliament held an extraordinary session, which Kurdish and most Sunni representatives did not attend, to pass a non-binding resolution requiring the expulsion of all "foreign" troops from Iraqi territory and to prepare for a second vote on related draft legislation on Sunday.
PMF militias threatened the MPs who did not attend the session with violence and have stated they would attack any Americans who did not leave.
On Monday, top Pentagon officials told journalists that US forces were not leaving Iraq, contrary to a letter, ostensibly from a senior US military officer to his Iraqi counterpart, which circulated widely on social media and which suggested that US forces were redeploying within Iraq in preparation for leaving the country altogether.
Late Tuesday night, Iran targetted airbases in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region housing US and coalition forces in retaliation for Soleimani’s killing, resulting in condemnation from top Iraqi leaders who, a few days earlier, had come out strongly against the United States for its military actions in Iraq.
Caught in the middle of two rival nations with which they must deal, many officials from both the federal government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region have called for restraint and calm, stressing that Iraq must not be an arena for settling international scores.
“Iraq is keen to keep the best relations with its neighbors and friends in the international community and to protect foreign representations and interests and all those present on Iraqi soil, Abdul Mahdi’s statement said.
“His Excellency Prime Minister also indicated to the US Secretary of State that there are American forces entering Iraq and American drones flying in his sky without permission from the Iraqi government,” it continued. “This is in violation of the agreements in force, and the US Secretary promised to follow up on the matter and affirmed his country’s respect for the sovereignty of Iraq.”
Abdul Mahdi concluded his statement in a more conciliatory tone, saying, “The two parties also underscored the importance of sustaining the development of the relationship between the two countries.”