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article imageOp-Ed: US envoy denies there are talks with Iraq on US troop withdrawal

By Ken Hanly     Jan 24, 2020 in Politics
US Special envoy for the ISIS conflict James Jeffrey denied on Thursday that the US has been having any talks with Iraq about withdrawing troops insisting that there is no real engagement.
Jeffrey suggest there be talks on US Iraq strategic relationship
Jeffrey told reporters: "There has not been any real engagement, Our position, as you know –- we've said it several times -- is that we're prepared to discuss with the Iraqi government our overall strategic relationship. We have a Strategic Framework Agreement with Iraq since 2008. It covers economic, security, and diplomatic engagement across the board. We see this as a package. And when we do sit down and talk with them, that's where we'll be aiming to direct the conversation." Jeffrey claimed that the presence of the troops were tied to economic and diplomatic relations under the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement and this would all be up for discussion.
Trump threatens sanctions
Back on January 6 Trump said that Iraq should pay to the cost of upgrades to a US base near Baghdad and also threatened sanctions if the withdrawal process were not on friendly terms: "Speaking from the presidential plane, Mr Trump said that if Iraq asked US forces to depart on an unfriendly basis, "we will charge them sanctions like they've never seen before, ever. It'll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame." Some 5,000 US soldiers are in Iraq as part of the international coalition against the Islamic State (IS) group.>"
The Islamic State no longer holds any significant territory in Iraq and is largely in survival mode. The Iraqi forces should be capable of dealing with any threat from ISIS. It seems clear that it is Iranian influence rather than any threat from ISIS that concerns the US. They want to stay in Iraq to counter Iranian influence and have attacked militia groups that are supported by Iran but are also part of the Iraqi government approved and finance People's Mobilization Forces (PMF).
Even on Thursday Trump still insisted US troops leaving would only be on US terms: "Asked about his earlier threat to impose sanctions on Iraq, Trump said: “We’ll see what happens, because we do have to do things on our terms.”"
US is facing immense popular pressure to withdraw its troops
The Iraqi parliament has passed a resolution 170 to 0 that requires the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country. However, caretaker PM Adel Abdul-Mahdi has backed off taking any action until new elections. However, today's protests against the US troop presence called by Moqtada-Sadr is estimated by some to be over a million strong. The US ignores such an outpouring of popular anger at the US presence at its peril.
The Jerusalem Post
reports: "Iraqi demonstrators filled the streets of Baghdad on Friday to take part in a "million-man march" calling for the US to end its military presence in Iraq.The protest was called by Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. "The skies, land and sovereignty of Iraq are being violated every day by occupying forces," tweeted Sadr, who called for a "peaceful, unified demonstration to condemn the American presence and its violations.""
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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