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Trump Administration Plans to Ignore Iraqi Prime Minister's Demand to Withdraw US Troops
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=44841"><span class="small">Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY</span></a>   
Friday, 10 January 2020 13:53

Shesgreen writes: "The Trump administration on Friday rebuffed demands from Iraq's prime minister to begin planning for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Trump Administration Plans to Ignore Iraqi Prime Minister's Demand to Withdraw US Troops

By Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY

10 January 20


he Trump administration on Friday rebuffed demands from Iraq's prime minister to begin planning for the withdrawal of U.S troops from Iraq.

Iraq's prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a phone call Thursday to send a U.S. delegation to Iraq to negotiate the withdrawal of U.S troops, according to a statement released Friday by the Iraqi leader.

But the State Department's chief spokeswoman said the U.S. presence in Iraq is a "force for good" and U.S. officials would not discuss a military withdrawal. 

"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," said Morgan Ortagus, the spokeswoman.

"America is a force for good in the Middle East," Ortagus said. "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."  

America's military presence in Iraq has become a flashpoint between the two allies after President Donald Trump's decision last week to kill a top Iranian general who was in Baghdad. Trump ordered a drone strike that killed Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who led an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. The strike also killed an Iraqi military official, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was the deputy commander of an Iran-backed militia organization known as the Popular Mobilization Forces.

Abdul-Mahdi has called the U.S. strike a political "assassination" and a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

Trump administration officials have defended the strike as legal and necessary, saying Soleimani was planning attacks on U.S. assets in the region. But they have declined to provide evidence of the plot and have given conflicting accounts of how "imminent" it was. 

"There is no doubt that there were a series of imminent attacks that were being plotted by Qasem Soleimani, and we don’t know precisely when and we don’t know precisely where, but it was real," Pompeo said during an interview with Fox News that aired Thursday. 

Iraq's parliament on Sunday approved a nonbinding resolution calling for U.S. troops to leave. Abdul-Mahdi's comments to Pompeo suggests he is pushing ahead with that demand, despite recent steps toward de-escalation between Tehran and Washington that have put Iraq on the brink of a proxy war between the U.S. and Iran.

The Iraqi leader asked Pompeo to "send delegates to Iraq to prepare a mechanism to carry out the parliament's resolution regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq," said the statement from Abdul-Mahdi. 

"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 Iraqi leader's statement added.

Ortagus said the U.S has been "unambiguous" about how crucial the U.S. mission is in Iraq. America troops are there to help fight the Islamic State. She said U.S. officials are willing to talk to Iraqi leaders, but not about withdrawing. 

"There does ... need to be a conversation between the U.S. and Iraqi governments not just regarding security, but about our financial, economic, and diplomatic partnership," she said. "We want to be a friend and partner to a sovereign, prosperous, and stable Iraq."

Top American military officials including Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper have said there were no plans for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq.

Simmering tensions between the U.S. and Iran escalated sharply after Dec. 27, when a rocket attack, blamed on an Iranian-backed militia group, caused the death of an American contractor at a base in Kirkuk province. The U.S. responded with a barrage of strikes on the militia's bases, killing at least 25 people.

Pro-Iranian protesters then stormed the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, temporarily stranding diplomats inside and leaving parts of the compound damaged and charred. Trump then ordered the Soleimani strike. Iran responded by launching more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases that house U.S. and coalition forces.  

No Americans or Iraqis were killed in the Iranian strikes. And tensions began to ratchet down Wednesday when Trump said Iran seemed to be "standing down" and he, too, signaled that Washington would be stepping away from further confrontation. your social media marketing partner