1/10/2020 12:52:00 PM US rejects troop withdrawal request
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s caretaker prime minister asked Washington to start working out a road map for an American troop withdrawal, but the U.S. State Department today bluntly rejected the request, saying the two sides should instead talk about how to “recommit” to their partnership.
Thousands of anti-government protesters gathered in the capital and southern Iraq, many calling on both Iran and America to leave Iraq, reflecting anger and frustration over the two rivals — both Baghdad’s allies — trading blows on Iraqi soil.
The request from Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi pointed to his determination to push ahead with demands for U.S. troops to leave Iraq, stoked by the American drone strike on Jan. 3 that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. In a phone call Thursday night, he told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that recent U.S. strikes in Iraq were an unacceptable breach of Iraqi sovereignty and a violation of their security agreements, his office said.
He asked Pompeo to “send delegates to Iraq to prepare a mechanism“ to carry out the Iraqi Parliament’s resolution on withdrawing foreign troops, according to the 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 statement added.
Abdul-Mahdi signaled he was standing by the push for the American forces to go despite recent signs of 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.
Iraqis have felt furious and helpless at being caught in the middle of fighting between Baghdad’s two closest allies. Abdul-Mahdi has said he rejects all violations of Iraqi sovereignty, including both the Iranian and U.S. strikes.