(January 5, 2020 / JNS) Iraq’s parliament voted on Sunday to expel U.S. forces from the country in the aftermath of Thursday’s U.S. elimination of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, Maj. Gen, Qassem Soleimani, in an airstrike at Baghdad Airport.
The nonbinding resolution calls on the Iraqi government to cease the agreement that allowed the United States to send its forces to Iraq more than four years ago to assist in the fight against the Islamic State.
“The Iraqi government has an obligation to end the presence of all foreign forces on Iraqi soil and prevent it from using Iraqi lands, waters and airspace or any other reason,” said Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halboosi in an address to lawmakers before the vote.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talked with al-Halboosi about the U.S. decision to kill the Iranian general and expressed “his appreciation for al-Halbousi’s continued partnership with the United States” as the two concurred on the importance of reducing tensions in Iraq and the region,” according to a readout by the U.S. State Department of the call. “The secretary reaffirmed that we want an Iraq that is free, independent and sovereign, and stressed that the United States, under [U.S.] President [Donald] Trump, will continue to work toward that end.”
The department released readouts of calls Pompeo had with world leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which mostly included the secretary stressing the crucial goal of combating Iran’s “destabilizing activities in the region,” and emphasized the U.S. interest in protecting American people and assets.
“The United States is disappointed by the action taken today in the Iraqi Council of Representatives. While we await further clarification on the legal nature and impact of today’s resolution, we strongly urge Iraqi leaders to reconsider the importance of the ongoing economic and security relationship between the two countries and the continued presence of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS,” said U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus. “We believe it is in the shared interests of the United States and Iraq to continue fighting ISIS together. This administration remains committed to a sovereign, stable and prosperous Iraq.”
In television interviews on Sunday morning, Pompeo blamed Iranian pressure for the Iraqi vote, which was supported by outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Adel-Abdul Mahdi.
“He’s under enormous threats from the very Iranian leadership that it is that we are pushing back against,” Pompeo told Fox News. “We are confident that the Iraqi people want the United States to continue to be there to fight the counter-terror campaign.”
He also remarked that it was too early to determine how the United States would respond if Iraq were to expel U.S. troops from the country.
“We’ll have to take a look at what we do when the Iraqi leadership and government makes a decision,” he said in the Fox News interview.
“The United States is disappointed by the action taken today in the Iraqi Council of Representatives. While we await further clarification on the legal nature and impact of today’s resolution, we strongly urge Iraqi leaders to reconsider the importance of the ongoing economic and security relationship between the two countries and the continued presence of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS,” said U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus.
In an interview with NBC News’s “Meet the Press,” Pompeo said that Americans are still at risk, despite the elimination of Soleimani, who was known to be behind the deaths of at least hundreds of Americans in the Middle East and elsewhere.
“There’s tremendous risk. We’re doing everything we can to make sure that we take that down and protect American life,” said Pompeo.
In an interview with CBS News’s “Face the Nation,” Pompeo said that “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 that is in defense of the Iraqi people and is good for America, too.”
However, the U.S.-led coalition to fight ISIS suspended its operations on Sunday as American troops brace for possible retaliation by Iran over Soleimani’s death.
“As a result, we are now fully committed to protecting the Iraqi bases that host coalition troops,” said the Combined Joint Task Force for Operation Inherent Resolve in a statement. “This has limited our capacity to conduct training with partners and to support their operations against Daesh, and we have therefore paused these activities, subject to continuous review.”
The statement continued to remark that the coalition will stay “resolute as partners” with those in Iraq who sought assistance in curbing ISIS, noting “we remain ready to return our full attention and efforts back to our shared goal of ensuring the lasting defeat of Daesh.”
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