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article imageUS offers Iraq a partial withdrawal of its troops

By Ken Hanly     Feb 16, 2020 in Politics
Back in January this year, the Iraqi parliament voted 170 to 0 for a resolution requiring all foreign troops be withdrawn from Iraq. The resolution was not binding upon the government and a number of lawmakers stayed away from the vote.
Iraq asks for meetings with the US to discuss troop withdrawal
The former Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi asked US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to send a delegation to discuss steps to be taken for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. There are approximately 5,200 troops in Iraq whose main mission was to train Iraqi troops and help in the fight against the Islamic State. However, the Islamic State has been mostly defeated and no longer holds any significant territory. It is more or less in survival mode. While the US is no longer needed the US wants to remain in Iraq to counter Iranian influence.
The US assassinated a top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani as well as a deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces an umbrella group of militias approved and financed by the Iraqi government. There were many protests after the drone attack near Baghdad airport. As the attack did not have government approval many considered it a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.
In response to the Iraqi PM's request the US State Dept. said that it would not discuss a troop withdrawal but would discuss the "appropriate force posture in the Middle East". This response no doubt raised tension between the US and the Iraqi government.
Trump had a violent negative reaction to the vote
Trump was angered by the vote in the Iraqi and demand for troop withdrawal. He threatened Iraq with sanctions such as they had never seen before if they forced the US to withdraw. On January 10 he also suggested the might block some $35 billion of Iraqi funds sitting in a US account.
The former Iraqi PM backed off somewhat but tensions remained high. However, the US is now taking a less negative stance and is offering the Iraqis at least a partial withdrawal.
Secret talks in Amman Jordan
Secret talks were held outside of Iraq at the private residence of the Canadian ambassador to Jordan in Amman according to the Middle East Eye. At the meeting were a US military representative, a NATO official and a senior Iraqi security adviser. The US State Dept. would not comment on the meeting. Similarly a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada also would not comment on the meeting.
The US appears to be willing to leave some Shi'ite majority areas and even cut down the number of troops in Baghdad. The US military representative said: “We are prepared to leave some of the Shia-majority areas, like the base in Balad. Maybe we could reduce our presence in Baghdad .” The US rule in Baghdad would be reduced to guarding the airport and the US embassy in the Green Zone. However the US is categorically ruled out any withdrawal from the biggest air base in Iraq Ain al-Assad the largest US base in Iraq indeed in the whole Middle East.
The new US position represents a major shift but it remains to be seen if the withdrawal offer will be sufficient to satisfy many in Iraq who want to see a full withdrawal. As the appended video shows there are still ongoing protests against the government in Iraq.
More about US Iraq relations, US troops in Iraq, US troop withdrawal from Iraq
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