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article imageOp-Ed: Top US general talks with Iraqi officials to mend relations

By Ken Hanly     Feb 5, 2020 in Politics
General Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, Centom Commander, made a quiet visit to Iraq on Tuesday. Multiple media reports claim that McKenzie "slipped" into Iraq in an attempt to mend ties during what he called a period of "turbulence" between the two countries.
Assassination by the US near Baghdad airport caused protests against the US
On January 3 the US carried out a drone attack near the Baghdad airport that killed a top Iranian general Qassem Soleiman as well as Iraqi General Abu al-Muhandis a deputy commander of the government approved and financed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMC).
Iraqis were furious. The Iraqi parliament passed a resolution 170 to 0 demanding that all foreign troops be withdrawn from Iraq. The resolution however was not binding and some Sunnis stayed away from the session. The Iraqi government did not give permission for the US attack and were not even informed. No doubt, most Iraqis saw the attack as a clear violation of their sovereignty.
Iran retaliated by missile attacks on two US bases in Iraq. There was considerable damage. While no one was reported killed as of last reporting there were 64 cases of concussion caused by blasts. There have also been attacks on US Iraq bases by Iraqi militia that are pro-Iran.
McKenzie's visit
McKenzie is the most senior US military official to visit Iraq since the US drone assassinations. The US has made it clear that it has no intention of leaving Iraq at the present. The US is supposed to be in the country to help fight ISIS but ISIS has lost all the territory it has held and is more or less in survival mode. The Iraqis probably have the ability to deal with any threat that remains on their own. However, the US worries about Iranian influence in Iraq and would like to stay to counteract that influence as much as possible.
McKenzie said he believes there will be a "way forward", presumably one that involves few or no US troop withdrawals. The Pentagon has not been forthcoming about who exactly McKenzie had talks with but did say that McKenzie was personally heartened by the reaction he had received. McKenzie also asked Iraq for permission to install Patriot missiles as US bases do not have sufficient defenses against Iranian missiles.
At least one news report does indicate some of those who spoke with McKenzie: "McKenzie said it’s difficult to predict how Tuesday’s discussions will pan out, particularly because the government is in transition. McKenzie spoke with Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, President Barham Saleh, and Speaker of the House Salim al-Jabouri, but he did not speak with Mohammed Allawi, who is expected to succeed the current prime minister."
Protesters have been demanding a new independent policy that is not determined by the US or Iran. However, the US assassination may have directed much of protesters' anger against the US. The US has refused to discuss any withdrawal mechanism with the Iraqi government even though the Iraqi government asked it to do so.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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