The Iraqi parliament voted Sunday to expel US troops from the country in response to the US killing top Iranian official Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad’s airport on Friday.
The vote — which was on a resolution for the expulsion of US troops backed by interim Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi — marks one of the first concrete consequences of the strike that experts predict will dramatically shift political relations in the region.
Some Iraqi officials — including Mahdi — have complained that the US’s attack on Soleimani violated Iraqi sovereignty. In a Sunday speech before parliament recommending a “yes” vote on the resolution, Mahdi told lawmakers President Donald Trump spoke to him ahead of the strike and failed to mention it, according to the Washington Post’s Mustafa Salim. Mahdi said he also explicitly told Trump the US was not to bring additional US military resources into the country.
In response to the attack on Soleimani — which killed other leaders as well, including militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis — Mahdi told lawmakers, “I put to the Parliament two options: one, ending the existence of these forces immediately and start the immediate arrangements for this; two, set a timeline for the departure of these forces.”
The prime minister continued: “I recommend the first option and keep the friendship between US and Iraq. It’s [in] the interests of Iraq and US to reorganize the relationship between both sides in a way keeps the sovereignty of Iraq.”
Lawmakers accepted this recommendation, approving a resolution that read, in part: “The Iraqi government must work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, airspace or water for any reason.”
Expulsion is not yet a certainty
The passage of the resolution, however, does not mean foreign forces will immediately be expelled from the country. The country’s prime minister would need to sign off on a formal bill to accomplish that. Mahdi, of course, supports the move, but the fact that he is an interim prime minister could complicate matters.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seemed to suggest the fact that Iraq’s government is in transition could keep US troops on the ground for now, on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday, and made it clear the Trump administration does not want to comply with the resolution.
“It is the United States that is prepared to help the Iraqi people get what it is they deserve and continue our mission there to take down terrorism from ISIS and others in the region,” Pompeo said, stressing that it is the acting prime minister who has endorsed the expulsion. “That is in defense of the Iraqi people and is good for America, too.”