According to NBC News, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday to ask him “to send a delegation to Iraq to put a mechanism [in place] for implementing the Iraqi parliament decision to safely withdraw troops from Iraq…Iraq is keen to keep the best relations with its neighbors and friends within the international community, and to protect foreign representations and interests and all those present on Iraqi soil.”
Although both the U.S. and Iran have taken steps toward de-escalation, Abdul-Mahdi still intends to act on the resolution.
Five days ago, in light of the U.S. strike that killed Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani and top Iraqi paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, the Iraqi parliament voted for the 5,000 U.S. troops currently serving in the country to be expelled. The resolution stated that the U.S. had violated the country’s sovereignty. In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” following the vote, Pompeo said, “He’s [Abdu-Mahdi] under enormous threats from the very Iranian leadership that…we are pushing back against. We are confident that the Iraqi people want the United States to continue to be there to fight the counterterror campaign.”
Asked to comment on the vote last Sunday, President Trump said he would refuse to leave until Iraq agreed to reimburse the U.S. for costly infrastructure expenditures. Trump said, “We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base there. It cost billions of dollars to build. We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it…Unless the U.S. exits Iraq on a very friendly basis, the U.S. will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever.”
Pompeo issued a statement earlier saying that he and the Prime Minister had spoken about “Iran’s attack against Iraqi sovereignty. We will do whatever it takes to protect the American and Iraqi people and defend our collective interests…We’ve been in their country. We’ve been supporting Iraqi sovereignty. We’ve been continuing to take down the terrorist threat against the Iraqi people.”
In a Friday briefing, Pompeo said, “We are happy to continue the conversation with Iraqis about what the right structure is. Our mission set there is very clear: We’ve been there to perform a training mission to help the Iraqi security forces be successful and to continue the campaign against ISIS, to continue the counter-Daesh mission. We’re going to continue that mission but as times change and we get to a place to deliver upon what I believe and the president believes is our right structure, with fewer resources dedicated to that mission, we will do so.”
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper have each said the U.S. has no plans to withdraw from Iraq.
NBC’s Josh Lederman reported this morning that the State Department seeks not only to maintain their troop presence in Iraq, but for Iraq to pay more for them to stay. I confess I don’t understand how they plan to arrange this.
JUST IN: @StateDept pushes back after Iraq asks Pompeo to send delegation to discuss US withdrawal from Iraq.
Instead the US wants the exact opposite: For Iraq to pay more for the US to remain
— Josh Lederman (@JoshNBCNews) January 10, 2020
On Friday, State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus issued the following statement:
America is a force for good in the Middle East. Our military presence in Iraq is to continue the fight against ISIS and as the Secretary has said, we are committed to protecting Americans, Iraqis, and our coalition partners. We have been unambiguous regarding how crucial our D-ISIS mission is in Iraq. At this time, any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership—not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East. Today, a NATO delegation is at the State Department to discuss increasing NATO’s role in Iraq, in line with the President’s desire for burden sharing in all of our collective defense efforts. There does, however, need to be a conversation between the U.S. and Iraqi governments not just regarding security, but about our financial, economic, and diplomatic partnership. We want to be a friend and partner to a sovereign, prosperous, and stable Iraq.