Iraq’s prime minister said he would leave a decision on whether to expel American troops from the country to his successor after the Iraqi Parliament voted to oust them.
“I request that the president, parliament, and political parties nominate a new prime minister, a new government that has full authority because these difficult, complicated circumstances, especially with pulling of the troops … that needs a government with full authority so it can go forward,” Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi Wednesday, according to an Associated Press translation.
Earlier in January, the Iraqi Parliament voted to expel all American troops after the United States killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in a targeted airstrike in Baghdad. In recent days, Iraq has been torn between its close relationship with Tehran and its military partnership with Washington after Soleimani’s death and Iran’s retaliatory move to launch missiles at Iraqi bases days later.
In a meeting, Abdul-Mahdi called on the president, Parliament speaker, and political parties to nominate a candidate to take over his role as prime minister and form a new government to make a decision on several thousand American troops stationed there.
“These complex conditions are difficult, particularly after the resolution of the Parliament for the withdrawal of forces and … this all requires a government of full authority so the country can take a step forward,” he said, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has dismissed the parliamentary vote and defended the U.S. military’s presence in Iraq.
“As for the activity today with respect to Iraq, 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,” Pompeo told “Fox News Sunday” earlier this month. He added that officials are “confident” Iraq wants American troops to remain there.
The Trump administration has also warned that Iraq would face financial penalties if it attempts to expel the troops. Last week, U.S. officials told Iraq’s government that its access to its central bank account at the New York Federal Reserve might be denied if troops were booted out. According to the WSJ report, $250 million in military aid could also be cut.
Following the Soleimani strike, the American-led coalition in Iraq announced it would suspend its counterterrorism mission and training of security forces.
“Our first priority is protecting all coalition personnel committed to the defeat of [ISIS]. Repeated rocket attacks over the last two months by elements of Kata’ib Hezbollah have caused the death of Iraqi Security Forces personnel and a U.S. civilian,” the U.S.-led coalition to defeat the ISIS terrorist group said in a statement. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper also said around that time that some American forces are being repositioned inside Iraq.