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6 Jan, 2024 22:54

Iraq wants to kick out US troops

Baghdad has accused Washington of breaching its sovereignty with yet another summary assassination
Iraq wants to kick out US troops

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani has promised to launch a process to expel international coalition forces from the country, after a US airstrike killed a high-ranking militia commander in Baghdad.

An attack hit the headquarters of the Popular Mobilization Forces, an Iraqi state-sponsored umbrella organization composed of dozens of armed factions, on Thursday. At least two people were killed, including Mushtaq Taleb al-Saidi, the leader of Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba (HHN), which Washington has listed as a terrorist group and claims is backed by Iran.

“The Popular Mobilization Forces represent an official presence affiliated with the state, subject to it, and an integral part of our armed forces,” the Iraqi prime minister stated on Friday. “We condemn the attacks targeting our security forces, which go beyond the spirit and letter of the mandate that created the international coalition.”

Pentagon Press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder defended the January 4 strike as a “necessary, proportionate act,” amid a wave of attacks on American military installations in the region. 

The Pentagon insists that its troops are in Baghdad at the invitation of local authorities to help fight Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). The 2,500 troops who remain the country a decade later are free to act in “self-defense,” according to Washington. 

Baghdad has argued that the time has come to review the terms of that invitation, with Al Sudani promising to “start the dialogue through the bilateral committee that was formed to determine the arrangements for the end of this presence.”

“We affirm our principled position in ending the existence of the international coalition after the justifications for its existence have ended,” he said, adding that Baghdad seeks to restore full “national sovereignty over the land, sky, and waters of Iraq.”

American military bases in Iraq, as well as illegal outposts in neighboring Syria, have come under drone and missile strikes on more than 110 occasions since October, amid regional tensions stemming from the Israeli war in Gaza. While the attacks were mostly carried out by unidentified parties, Washington has accused Tehran of pulling the strings behind the scenes and has reserved the right to retaliate as it deems fit.

“We have repeatedly emphasized that in the event of a violation or transgression by any Iraqi party, or if Iraqi law is violated, the Iraqi government is the only party that has the right to follow up on the merits of these violations,” the Iraqi prime minister said. He accused Washington of routinely violating Iraq’s sovereignty, recalling another “heinous act” committed by the US four years ago.

Soleimani, a revered figure in Iran, was killed in a drone strike authorized by former US President Donald Trump in Baghdad on January 3, 2020. Washington claimed at the time that Soleimani was planning an “imminent” attack on US forces. On the fourth anniversary of his death, two explosions ripped through a memorial in Iran killing nearly 100 people and injuring hundreds more. IS terrorists claimed responsibility for the atrocity in a Telegram post, while the US has insisted that Washington played no role in the bombings.

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