Iraq's parliament seeks to approve law to end US troop presence

Tension has escalated between US troops and Iran-backed militias in Iraq after a series of retaliatory attacks in recent weeks

In Saturday's session, Kurdish and Sunni lawmakers were absent, indicating possible challenges in approving a law to end the US mission. AFP
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Iraq's Parliament is pushing for a law to force the departure of US troops from the country following a series of attacks against Iran-backed militias, accused by Washington of attacking its troops in Iraq and Syria.

In recent weeks, tension has escalated between US troops and Iran-backed militias in Iraq after a series of retaliatory attacks in the country and over the border in Syria.

Last month, the escalation reached new levels with a drone attack hitting a US base in Jordan, killing three US service members and wounding more than 30 others.

The US retaliated with expansive strikes in Syria and Iraq. At least 17 people were killed in Iraq, including two civilians. The Pentagon said 40 militia fighters had been killed.

The strikes were followed by the assassination of at least two militia leaders in a drone attack in Baghdad.

“The Iraqi Parliament rejects and denounces the continuing attacks on the Iraqi soil,” Acting Parliament Speaker Muhsin Al Mandalawi said.

“It strongly denounces, the American strikes that targeted sites and figures from our security forces with Al Hashd Al Shaabi,” Mr Al Mandalawi added, using the Arabic name of a government-backed paramilitary group.

He called on the Iraqi government to “take all necessary measures to protect the sovereignty of Iraq, its security and stability”.

On January 27, Iraq and the US held the first round of talks to end the international coalition's mission, with Baghdad expecting discussions to lead to a timetable for reducing the coalition's presence and to reach bilateral security agreements with state members.

The talks between Baghdad and Washington were then paused after the deadly drone attack the following day on a US base in Jordan. The talks are expected to be resumed on Sunday.

“The parliament supports all government measures to make Iraq a factor of stability in the regional and international arena and not to widen the conflict in the region,” Mr Al Mandalawi said.

“The parliament also calls for taking all diplomatic measures that prevent all kinds of aggressions against its lands and not to allow making Iraq an arena to setting scores, and all parties have to abide to all agreements,” he added.

In 2020, Shiite politicians voted in parliament for the departure of foreign forces after the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Suleimani and senior Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis in a US drone strike in Baghdad. Kurdish and Sunni lawmakers didn’t support the decision.

While the US refused to withdraw, former US president Donald Trump reduced the number of soldiers in Iraq to 2,500 and agreed with Iraq to end the US combat mission and to shift it to an advisory one.

In Saturday's session, Kurdish and Sunni lawmakers were absent, indicating possible challenges in approving a law to end the US mission.

The request for such a law is backed by 100 MPs in the 329 member assembly and has been referred to Parliament’s Legal and Security and Defence Committees, Mr Al Mandalawi said.

The outbreak of the Gaza war broke the one-year period of relative calm between the militias and US forces that followed the establishment of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani’s government.

The militias say their attacks against US troops in Iraq and Syria were in response to Washington's support for Israel in its fight against Hamas, and are demanding its withdrawal.

Since then, dozens of Shiite fighters have been killed in US retaliatory attacks, including a senior militia leader, while dozens of US personnel have been wounded.

Updated: February 11, 2024, 10:50 AM