Iraq’s parliament called for American troops to be kicked out of the country Sunday in the wake of the U.S. killing of Iran’s top general.
In what could be a historic turning point for the U.S. and the Middle East, Iraqi lawmakers approved a resolution calling on Baghdad to end the four-year-old agreement that allowed the U.S. to send forces to Iraq to fight the Islamic State.
Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi had called for “urgent measures” to kick out foreign forces, denouncing the Friday killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani as a “political assassination.” President Trump accused the general of “plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel,” though the claim has come under intense scrutiny amid a lack of detail from the White House.
The United States military wrote to Iraq on Monday saying it would pull out of the country and would be repositioning forces over the next few days and weeks, AFP and Reuters reported.
“Sir, in deference to the sovereignty of the Republic of Iraq, and as requested by the Iraqi Parliament and the Prime Minister, CJTF-OIR will be repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement,” read the letter. “We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.”
It was signed by US Marine Corps Brigadier General William H Seely III, commanding general of Task Force Iraq, the US-led military coalition against ISIL
Iran was in the midst of three days of mourning for Soleimani on Sunday. Thousands of Iraqis followed his coffin from Baghdad as it made its way to his Tehran home.
Mahdi recommended that the Iraqi government set up a timetable to eject the roughly 5,000 U.S. troops, even as Washington deployed an extra 3,000 members of armed forces to the region to handle any blowback from Soleimani’s killing. Iran has vowed to take revenge, but threats have been vague.
Before the vote, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to directly answer a question on whether the U.S. would go along with Iraqi efforts to boot U.S. troops.
“It is the United States that is prepared to help the Iraqi people get what it is they deserve and continue our mission there to take down terrorism from ISIS and others in the region,” he said.
Former U.S. diplomat Daniel Fried, who most recently served as the State Department’s coordinator of sanctions policy under President Barack Obama, described the developments in Iraq’s parliament as unsettling.
“Our position was strengthening there,” he told the Daily News, referring to anti-Iran sentiment in Iraq. “That has now changed.
“How does this fit into a strategy that leaves us better off?” he said of the possibility that U.S. troops could be forced to leave. “Iraq falling under Iranian interest or devolving into an Iran-backed Sunni-Shia radical civil war is not in our interest.”
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