Iraq parliament passes resolution to expel US troops

The Iraqi parliament called on the government on Sunday to work to end all foreign troop presence as a backlash grew after the killing of a top Iranian military commander and an Iraqi militia leader in a US strike in Baghdad.

A resolution passed by a special session of parliament said the government should cancel its request for assistance from a US-led coalition.

Parliament resolutions, unlike laws, are non-binding to the government. But this one is likely to be heeded: Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi had earlier called on parliament to end foreign troop presence as soon as possible.

The session was called after a US 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.

“Despite the internal and external difficulties that we might face, it remains best for Iraq on principle and practically,” Abdul Mahdi told parliament in a speech.

Since the killings, rival Shia political leaders have called for US 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 Shia 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 US troops fought side by side during Iraq’s 2014-2017 war against Daesh militants.

 Iran Parliament Speaker: Soleimani’s killing is violation of UN Charter

Around 5,000 US 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 US troops.

Hadi al-Amiri, the top candidate to succeed Muhandis, repeated his call for US 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.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who gave Soleimani the country’s highest honor last year, vowed “severe retaliation” in response to his killing. Thousands mourned his death in Iraq, Iran and Gaza.

The Pentagon accused Soleimani of plotting the embassy attack and planning to carry out additional attacks on US diplomats and service members in Iraq and the region.

Read: Pope calls for dialogue and restraint amid growing US-Iran tensions

Qassem Soleimani was the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force and the mastermind of its regional security strategy. He was killed early Friday near the Baghdad international airport along with senior Iraqi militants in an airstrike ordered by President Donald Trump. The attack has caused regional tensions to soar and tested the US alliance with Iraq. Fearing escalation, NATO has suspended it’s training activities in Iraq, while the British Navy has committed to escort every UK-flagged ship across the Straits of Hormuz.

Showing no signs of seeking to reduce tensions, the US president has since issued a stern threat to Iran on Twitter, saying that the US has targeted 52 Iranian sites that it would strike if Iran attacks Americans or US assets in response to the US drone strike that killed Soleimani. He later added that the US will use ‘new’ equipment to strike Iran.

The US strike on Soleimani’s convoy at Baghdad airport also killed Iranian-backed Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and it raised the specter of wider conflict in the Middle East.

Opinion: Trump’s reckless gamble with world peace

Note: This page was updated at 15:13 GMT on 05/01/2020 with the result of the parliamentary vote.