Iraq’s prime minister said Sunday that US officials told him Israel was behind some attacks in Iraq on munitions warehouses belonging to pro-Iran militias.
Outgoing Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi made the statement at a parliament session where lawmakers called for the expulsion of US troops from the country in reaction to the American drone attack that killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad.
“The US informed us that a number of bombings of Hashed al-Shaabi sites in Iraq in the summer of 2019 were carried out by Israel,” Mahdi said, according to Channel 13.
Airstrikes have hit Iran-backed militias in Iraq near the Syrian border numerous times in the past year, including a series of attacks in September.
The Popular Mobilization Force, an umbrella group of pro-Iran militias, has blamed both Israel and the US for the blasts and drone sightings at its bases. Israeli officials have not publicly commented on these allegations, though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hinted at the possibility that Israel has struck in Iraq.
The head of the Hashed Al-Shaabi paramilitary force, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, was killed in the US airstrike in Baghdad on Friday that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
Abdel Mahdi said he had recently talked on the phone with US President Donald Trump about the US Embassy in Baghdad.
“I got a phone call from Trump after the embassy protests ended. He thanked us and even asked for Iraq to mediate between the US and Iran,” he said.
Abdel Mahdi’s government resigned last year in response to mass protests gripping the country, and no replacement government has been established.
Lawmakers at the Sunday parliament session approved a resolution asking the Iraqi government to end the agreement under which Washington sent forces more than four years ago to help in the fight against the Islamic State group.
The bill is subject to approval by the Iraqi government. But even then, canceling the US-Iraq agreement requires giving the Americans a one-year notice for withdrawal.
But the vote was another sign of the blowback from the US airstrike that killed Soleimani and a number of top Iraqi officials at the Baghdad airport. The attack has dramatically escalated regional tensions and raised fears of outright war.
Amid Iran’s threats of vengeance, the US-led military coalition in Iraq announced Sunday it was putting the fight against Islamic State militants on hold to focus on protecting its troops and bases. The coalition said it is suspending the training of Iraqi forces and other operations in support of the battle against IS.
A pullout of the estimated 5,200 US troops could cripple the fight against IS and allow it to make a comeback. It could also enable Iran to deepen its influence in Iraq.
Some 3,500 US troops will ship to the Middle East to serve as reinforcements within the next few days.
The majority of about 180 legislators present in the Iraqi parliament on Sunday voted in favor of the resolution to remove US troops. It was backed by most Shiite members of parliament, who hold a majority of seats. Many Sunni and Kurdish legislators did not show up for the session, apparently because they oppose abolishing the deal.
Iraqi officials have decried the killing of the general as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.
“The killing of Soleimani was a political assassination,” Abdel Mahdi said, adding that the Iranian general was scheduled to meet him the next morning about relations with Saudi Arabia.
Also on Sunday, the Iraqi foreign ministry summoned US Ambassador Matthew Tueller to condemn the killing of Soleimani, calling it “a blatant violation of Iraqi sovereignty.”
Late Saturday, missiles slammed into the Baghdad enclave where the US embassy is located and an airbase north of the capital housing American troops, prompting Trump to threaten strikes on 52 sites in Iran.
The near-simultaneous attacks seemed to be the first phase of promised retaliation for the strike.