The United States rejected last Friday an Iraqi request to withdraw its troops from the country amid recent tensions between the two countries, following the murder of Iranian prominent military commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in a US attack.
Washington not only rejected Baghdad’s request, but also expressed desire to expand the presence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Iraq.
In a statement, Morgan Ortagus, spokesperson for the US Department of State, said the US would not discuss the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, stressing that the force presence there was appropriate.
“There does, however, need to be a conversation between the U.S. and Iraqi governments not just regarding security, but about our financial, economic, and diplomatic partnership,” Ortagus added.
Last Thursday, Iraqi caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi said that his country has filed a request to the US Department of State to send representatives to Iraq to set the preparations of the US withdrawal in accordance with the latest resolution of the Iraqi parliament to remove US troops from the country.
In a statement, Abdel Mahdi said that US troops have entered Iraq and have flown drones in Iraqi airspace without prior permission from the Iraqi government, which violates agreements se by the two sides.
Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force and mastermind of its regional influence in the Middle East, was killed about two weeks ago, along with several Iraqi militia leaders by a US airstrike near Baghdad airport.
US President Donald Trump last Thursday accused Iran of planning an attack against the US embassy in Baghdad.
He added in an interview with Fox News TV last Friday that the US has $35bn in the military bases in Iraq, and if Baghdad wants US troops to leave, then it has to compensate the US.
“I think they’ll agree to pay. Otherwise we’ll stay there,” he said.