Iraqi Prime Minister Asks U.S. to Start Talks on Troop Withdrawal


Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi of Iraq said on Friday that he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to send a delegation from the United States to prepare for the withdrawal of American troops from his country.

Amid outrage in Iraq about the American drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a top Iranian commander, in Baghdad last week, Iraqi lawmakers voted on Sunday to expel United States forces, as ripples from the attack spread through the Middle East.

In a Thursday evening phone call, which Mr. Abdul Mahdi’s office said Mr. Pompeo had initiated, the Iraqi prime minister said he had objected to dual violations of his country’s sovereignty — referring to both the American attack and the retaliatory missile strikes by Iran on bases in Iraq.

“Iraq is keen on keeping the best of relations with its neighbors and its friends in the international community,” the prime minister’s office said in the statement.

Iraq’s priority is to “fight terrorism,” according to the statement, including violence from the Islamic State, the militant group that tore through the region before being routed with support from Iranian-backed militias and a coalition of Western forces last year.

United States forces have been stationed in Iraq, and to a lesser degree in Syria, as part of that operation. There are currently around 5,200 American troops in Iraq.

The vote to eject the American forces was nonbinding and nearly half of the members of the Iraqi Parliament — primarily those representing ethnic Kurdish and Sunni Muslim minorities — did not vote. But there was no doubt of Mr. Abdul Mahdi’s support for the measure, because he quickly drafted a bill calling for the troops’ withdrawal.

In his statement on Friday, the Iraqi prime minister said that American forces entering the country and drones flying over Iraq did so “without a permission from the Iraqi government.”

Mr. Pompeo’s office confirmed that the two had spoken, and in a statement, the American secretary of state said that he “reiterated the United States’ condemnation of the Iranian regime’s Jan. 7 launch of ballistic missiles into two sites in Iraq that host Iraqi, American, and coalition forces working together to defeat ISIS.”

An initial readout of the call from the State Department did not mention the request for a delegation to discuss troop withdrawal.

Edward Wong and Falih Hassan contributed reporting.



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