US won’t heed Iraq’s call for troop withdrawal, calls military presence there ‘appropriate’

The US is willing to discuss “recommitting to strategic partnership” with Iraq but not a troop withdrawal, the US State Department said, after the country’s prime minister told Washington to “prepare a mechanism” for pull back.

In a statement on Friday, department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said that the US military presence in Iraq was ‘appropriate’ and that any delegation the US might send to Iraq to discuss arrangements between the two countries would not discuss the removal of troops.

Ortagus acknowledged that there does “need to be a conversation” between US and Iraqi officials, “not just regarding security, but about our financial, economic, and diplomatic partnership.”

Earlier Friday, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi had asked US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to send a delegation to begin preparations for a troop pullout.

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An Iraqi parliament session in Baghdad, Iraq January 5, 2020. © Reuters / Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office
Iraq asks US to prepare troop pullout, send team to Baghdad

The Iraqi parliament last week passed a non-binding resolution asking the government to expel foreign troops and to cancel the ongoing request for military assistance from the US-led coalition. 

There are currently 5,200 US troops stationed at bases across Iraq, who were invited by the Iraqi government in 2014 to help combat ISIS militants in the region. The relationship between Washington and Baghdad has soured in recent months, however, as tensions in the region flared. The mood got even more tense after a US drone strike in Baghdad killed a commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force.

Iraq’s parliamentary resolution was dismissed by US President Donald Trump, who threatened the country with “very big sanctions” and said the US would not leave until Iraq paid Washington back for an expensive air base it had built there. Pompeo has also disregarded the will of the Iraqi parliament, saying he was “confident” that the Iraqi people want US troops to remain.

Saad Al-Muttalibi, a member of the Baghdad Security Committee, told RT last week that it was “very important” for the US to withdraw its troops from Iraq because Iraqis “don’t want to be drawn into a war between Iran and America on Iraqi soil.”

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