Iraqi President Barham Salim and his US counterpart Donald Trump have exchanged viewpoints about a reduction in the number of American military forces in the war-ravaged Arab country, weeks after a parliamentary bill demanded the withdrawal of all US-led foreign troops.
“We’ve had a very good relationship. And we’re down to a very low number. We’re down to 5,000. So we’re down to a very low number, historically low, and we’ll see what happens,” Trump told journalists following a meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos on Wednesday with the Iraqi leader.
Saleh and Trump also discussed the importance of respecting the demands of the Iraqi people to preserve the country’s sovereignty.
“We have a lot of common interests, the fight against extremism, stability in the neighborhood, and [a] sovereign Iraq that is stable, friends of the neighbors and friends of the United States,” the Iraqi president commented.
On January 5, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country.
Late on January 9, Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called on the United States to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad tasked with formulating a mechanism for the withdrawal of US troops from the country.
According to a statement released by the Iraqi premier’s office, Abdul-Mahdi “requested that delegates be sent to Iraq to set the mechanisms to implement the parliament’s decision for the secure withdrawal of (foreign) forces from Iraq” in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The prime minister said Iraq rejects violation of its sovereignty, particularly the US military’s violation of Iraqi airspace in the airstrike that assassinated Lt. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, the deputy head of PMU, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and their companions.
“The prime minister said American forces had entered Iraq and drones are flying in its airspace without permission from Iraqi authorities and this was a violation of the bilateral agreements,” the statement added.
The US State Department bluntly rejected the request the following day.
A high-ranking official from the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known by the Arabic word Hashd al-Sha’abi, says Friday’s march against the presence of United States troops in the country will turn a new page in Iraq’s history.
“Our beloved country is undergoing special and exceptional circumstances. After the US aggression targeted the sons of Hashd al-Sha’abi and counter-terrorism leaders, the truth behind US military presence finally came to light, and it was revealed that American troops have not been deployed in order to help Iraq, and will not withdraw whenever the Iraqi government requests them to do so,” Qais al-Khazali, leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, which is part of the PMU, said in a statement released on Wednesday.
He added, “Our country is now living in an occupation phase… The Iraqi nation rejects humiliation, shame, occupation and aggression. (US President Donald) Trump has said that he wants to control the Iraqi oil… Iraqi people have thwarted the US scenario of Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.”
Khazali further noted that Friday’s demonstrations to condemn the American presence in Iraq will not only be the day of sovereignty defense, but will rather be the day of the second revolution – a century after the Great Iraqi Revolution of 1920, when people staged mass demonstrations against British forces that had occupied Iraq during the First World War.
“We will force the United States to withdraw from our country, and we will cleanse our country,” the PMU leader pointed out.