Iraq wants American troops out of the country. Period.
If one of Qassem Soleimani’s chief goals was to drive the US from Iran’s doorstep, he may accomplish in death what he spent 16 years trying to get done in life.
On Thursday evening, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi told Mike Pompeo in a phone call that the drone strike against Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was unacceptable, and constituted a breach of Iraqi sovereignty, not to mention a gross violation of the various security agreements between the two countries.
It’s time, Mahdi told Pompeo, for Baghdad and Washington to begin working on a road map and time table for America to leave.
“Send delegates to Iraq to prepare a mechanism to carry out the parliament’s resolution regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq”, the PM instructed Pompeo, according to a statement. “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 Trump administration had hoped that efforts to deescalate the situation with Iran this week following IRGC missile strikes on bases housing American troops might help sway Iraqi lawmakers who voted to expel US troops in the days following Soleimani’s death.
Trump went so far as to suggest that he might simply refuse to leave, a rather ridiculous position coming from a man who campaigned on a promise to extricate the US from costly foreign entanglements.
“We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it”, Trump said Sunday, referencing a US air base. “We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that’s there. It cost billions of dollars to build. We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it”.
He may have little choice in the matter. After all, if Iraq asks the US to leave and Trump refuses to comply, the US army will be an occupier. Considering the Shia lawmakers who voted last weekend to expel the US presence are, in many cases, loyal to Iran and tied directly to the militias previously commanded by Soleimani, American troops would be in extreme peril every minute of the day.
Here’s AP with a bit more:
Speaking to Pompeo, Abdul-Mahdi stopped short of requesting an immediate withdrawal and appeared to give the U.S. time to draw up a strategy and timeline for departure. Still, the comments suggested he was standing by the push for the American forces to go despite recent signals toward de-escalation between Tehran and Washington after Iran retaliated for Soleimani’s death with a barrage of missiles that hit two Iraqi bases where U.S. troops are based but caused no casualties.
There are some 5,200 U.S. troops in Iraq assisting and providing training to Iraqi security counter-parts to fight the Islamic State group… The State Department acknowledged that Pompeo had called Abdul-Mahdi but made no mention of U.S. troops in a readout of the call released late Thursday.
Mahdi, you’re reminded, is acting in a caretaker capacity after resigning following protests in October. He remains at the helm of the government thanks to Soleimani, who effectively instructed Hadi al-Amiri and Moqtada al-Sadr to keep him in power.
Both Mahdi and Amiri attended Soleimani’s funeral procession when his body was still in Iraq.
That underscores how untenable this situation has become. Iraq is an Iranian client state. That is the reality of the situation and nothing can change it. As we saw in 2014 and 2015, one alternative is a literal Sunni caliphate run by Salafi jihadists, who, thanks largely to Soleimani and al-Muhandis, were defeated.
Now they’re both dead, and the US is effectively at war with the Shia militias who, again, are directly and explicitly affiliated with the Iraqi government.
In a very real sense, the US is at war with Iraq already and, at the risk of overstating the case, will literally be at war with the country if Trump doesn’t get out sooner rather than later.