Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi asked U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo for a “mechanism” that would lead to the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country.
Abdul-Mahdi’s office said in a statement that the prime minister 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.”
The Jan. 9 statement from Abdul-Mahdi’s office said Pompeo called the Iraqi premier.
Abdul-Mahdi’s comments to Pompeo suggests he was standing by his previous statements that U.S troops should leave Iraq despite recent signals toward de-escalation between Tehran and Washington following the tit-for-tat attacks that brought Iraq to the brink of a proxy war.
Tensions eased on Wednesday when President Donald Trump signaled that Washington was stepping away from escalation despite Iranian missiles being fired at several bases hosting U.S. troops in Iraq. No Americans or Iraqis were harmed by the missiles, Trump said.
The Iraqi prime minister said his country rejects all violations against its sovereignty, including the barrage of ballistic missiles that Iranian forces fired targeting U.S. troops in Iraq and also America’s violation of Iraq’s airspace during the airstrike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani last week.
Pompeo said in a statement that he and Abdul-Mahdi discussed “Iran’s attack against Iraqi sovereignty,” adding: “We will do whatever it takes to protect the American and Iraqi people and defend our collective interests.”
In a briefing in Washington on Friday, Pompeo added: “He didn’t quite characterize the conversation correctly.”
“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.”
Top American military officials including Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper have said there were no plans for the United States to withdraw from Iraq.
Pompeo this week defended the U.S. troops’ presence in Iraq, saying, “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.”
“We are confident that the Iraqi people want the United States to continue to be there to fight the counterterror campaign, and we’ll continue to do all the things we need to do to keep America safe,” Pompeo said.
His comments came after Iraqi Parliament members passed a resolution on Jan. 5 calling for the expulsion of foreign troops from the country. Experts told The Epoch Times that Iraq was trying to strike a balance between its two opposing allies.
“The government commits to revoke its request for assistance from the international coalition fighting ‘Islamic State’ due to the end of military operations in Iraq and the achievement of victory,” the resolution stated. “The Iraqi government must work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, airspace, or water for any reason.”
The prime minister, meanwhile, was set to step down soon but reports in Iraqi outlets indicated that some lawmakers are seeking to reinstate him or have him head the next government.
“There is a proposal by some political blocs to renew the confidence in Adel Abdul-Mahdi and his government,” and some feel that it is “necessary for Abdul-Mahdi to stay in his position and to abolish the idea of holding early elections,” said Muhammad Al-Husayni, a senior leader in the Al-Hikma Movement.
“His recent position was very courageous when he recommended the departure of foreign troops from the country,” added MP Haneen Al-Qaddo of the pro-Iran Al-Fateh Alliance.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.