Iraqi PM tells Pompeo that US must decide mechanism for troop withdrawal

Abdul-Mahdi’s comments suggest he stands by previous statements that US soldiers should leave country despite recent signals toward deescalation between Tehran and Washington

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center left, talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, center right in Baghdad, during a Middle East tour, January 9, 2019. (Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/POOL/AFP)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center left, talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, center right in Baghdad, during a Middle East tour, January 9, 2019. (Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/POOL/AFP)

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has told the US secretary of state to send a delegation to Iraq tasked with formulating the mechanism for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, according to a statement released Friday.

The statement, from the office of the Iraqi caretaker prime minister, said the request came in a telephone call between Abdul-Mahdi and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday night. It says Pompeo called the Iraqi premier.

Abdul-Mahdi’s comments to Pompeo suggests he was standing by his previous statements that US troops should leave Iraq despite recent signals toward de-escalation between Tehran and Washington following the tit-for-tat attacks that brought Iraq to the brink of a proxy war.

Abdul-Mahdi confirmed Tuesday that he had received what the US said was a draft letter describing steps its military would take to “move out” of Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi speaks to the media during a press conference in Ankara, Turkey, May 15, 2019. (Burhan Ozbilici/AP)

The Pentagon had said an unsigned draft version of the letter had been mistakenly sent, but the Iraqi premier disputed that claim.

Tensions eased on Wednesday when US President Donald Trump signaled that Washington was stepping away from escalation.

The Iraqi prime minister said his country rejects all violations against its sovereignty, including the barrage of ballistic missiles that Iranian forces fired targeting against US troops in Iraq and also America’s violation of Iraq’s airspace in the airstrike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani last week.

The Iraqi leader asked Pompeo to “send delegates to Iraq to prepare a mechanism to carry out the parliament’s resolution regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq,” the statement said.

“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.

Top American military officials including Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and US Defense Secretary Mark Esper have said there were no plans for the US to withdraw from Iraq.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, listens as Secretary of Defense Mark Esper delivers a statement on Iraq and Syria at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property, Dec. 29, 2019, in Palm Beach, Florida (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Iraqi lawmakers passed a non-binding resolution to oust US troops following a strike that killed Soleimani and senior Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis last Friday.

The latest escalation was set off when a rocket attack blamed on the Iranian-backed militia group Kataeb Hezbollah, or Hezbollah Brigades, caused the death of an American contractor at a base in Kirkuk province.

The US replied with a barrage of strikes on the militia’s bases, killing at least 25 people.

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