Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 6 December 2020

US warns it will review policies in Iraq if missile attacks continue

Washington does not want to have permanent military bases in the country, ambassador Mathew Tuller says

U.S. soldiers are seen during a handover ceremony of Taji military base from US-led coalition troops to Iraqi security forces, in the base north of Baghdad, Iraq August 23, 2020. Reuters 
U.S. soldiers are seen during a handover ceremony of Taji military base from US-led coalition troops to Iraqi security forces, in the base north of Baghdad, Iraq August 23, 2020. Reuters 

Missile attacks on US personnel and diplomatic missions in Iraq will push Washington to review its policies, the US ambassador to the country, Mathew Tuller said on Monday.

His remarks come after two Katyusha rockets fell near Baghdad airport on Sunday night. It was the third such attack on sensitive sites hosting US and foreign troops in the capital this week.

Washington blames such attacks on Iranian-backed militias but Tehran has not directly commented on the incidents.

"There are extremist voices that prompt the targeting of the US’s military and diplomatic presence, and this does not represent the Iraqi people or the interest of Iraq," Mr Tuller told reporters.

If such attacks continue then it will “prompt a review of many issues, not between Iraq and America, rather, between Iraq and the international coalition in general.”

There are around 5,000 US personnel and hundreds more from other countries in Iraq which are deployed at the request of the government to assist Iraqi forces in their fight against ISIS.

Yet the Iraqi oarliament passed a bill following the US killing of top Iranian general Qasem Suleimani and Kataib Hezbollah commander Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis in January, that demanded the invitation be revoked.

Mr Tuller said that Washington does not want to have permanent military bases in Iraq, indicating that the US will make its decision on whether or not its troops will remain in Iraq based on the “readiness of the Iraqi forces.”

"There is some misunderstanding and intended confusion regarding the nature of the relationship between the international coalition and the Iraqi government. America does not want permanent military presence or permanent bases in Iraq,” Mr Tuller said.

The Pentagon said last wekk that it will reduce US force stationed in Iraq to about 3,500 troops within the next few months.

The killing of an American civilian last December triggered a round of violence which ultimately led US President Donald Trump to order the killing of Suliemani and Al Muhandis.

It resulted in deadly tit for tat attacks between US and Iran on Iraqi soil.

"We hope that the Iraqi parliament will not reject the recent agreements between Baghdad and Washington," noting that "the strategic framework agreement was ratified by Parliament in 2008, and anything we do within this framework is in force as a law,” he said.

For months Iraqi officials have said they are seeking to avoid being drawn into any regional conflagration.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi concluded a trip to Washington earlier this month where he held talks with Mr Trump and various top US officials.

The meeting in Washington shows “the strength of the relationship” Mr Tuller said.

"We all understand the challenges that Iraq suffers from the outbreak of the coronavirus and the drop in oil prices, especially as it does not have a strong position to attract foreign investment,” Mr Tuller said.

Updated: August 31, 2020 04:08 PM

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