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Iraq parliament to convene amid calls to expel U.S. troops

Sunday January 5, 2020

Iraqi lawmakers said they would use a special parliamentary session on Sunday to push for a vote on a resolution requiring the government to ask Washington to withdraw U.S. troops from the country.

The session was called after a U.S. drone strike on Friday on a convoy at Baghdad airport that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Since the killings, rival Shi’ite political leaders have called for U.S. troops to be expelled from Iraq in an unusual show of unity among factions that have squabbled for months.

“There is no need for the presence of American forces after defeating Daesh (Islamic State),” said Ammar al-Shibli, a Shi’ite lawmaker and member of the parliamentary legal committee.

“We have our own armed forces which are capable of protecting the country,” he told Reuters.

Despite decades of enmity between Iran and the United States, Iran-backed militia and U.S. troops fought side by side during Iraq’s 2014-2017 war against Islamic State militants.

Around 5,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, most of them in an advisory capacity.

If Iraq wants them to leave, parliament needs to pass a resolution obliging the government to ask the United States to pull them out.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who holds the post in a caretaker role after resigning in November amid street protests, called on Friday for parliament to convene an extraordinary session to take legislative steps to protect Iraq’s sovereignty. He did not specify this should mean a discussion over the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Hadi al-Amiri, the top candidate to succeed Muhandis, repeated his call for U.S. troops to leave Iraq on Saturday during a funeral procession for those killed in the attack.

Many Iraqis, including opponents of Soleimani, have expressed anger at Washington for killing him and Muhandis on Iraqi soil and potentially dragging their country into another conflict.

In the southern oil city of Basra, dozens of protesters gathered near the West Qurna 1 oilfield, operated by U.S. major Exxon Mobil, to condemn the U.S. attack. Some protesters were carrying a banner that read, “No for the actions of a stupid Trump.”

Iraqi oil officials said the gathering did not affect oil operations at the field.

Dozens of U.S. citizens working for foreign oil companies in Basra left the country on Friday after the U.S. Embassy urged all its citizens to leave Iraq immediately.

In the southern city of Nassiriya, at least one protester was killed and three were wounded when militia members carrying symbolic caskets for Soleimani and Muhandes tried to enter their protest camp and gunshots were fired, police and medical sources said.

The protesters in Nassiriya have been camping out in the area since October when mass demonstrations gripped Iraq demanding an overhaul of the political system.

Many of those demonstrators see political elites as subservient to one or another of Baghdad’s main allies, the United States and Iran - using Iraq as a proxy in a struggle for regional influence.


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