Steven Sahiounie, political commentator
Iraq’s parliament met on Sunday and passed a resolution asking all 5,200 US troops to be expelled. After hearing of the Iraqi decision, US President Trump refused the request, balking at the democratic process of an elected body of a sovereign nation, and insisted, “We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it,” referring to a US air force base in Iraq, one of 12 US military facilities there. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “We are confident the Iraqi people will want the U.S. to remain.” He also disregarded the democratic process in Iraq, in which the parliament represents the ‘Iraqi people’.
Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mehdi attended the special session and urged lawmakers to take action to end the presence of foreign troops, which has been debated for years, by the Iraqi people and their representatives, who feel the US military presence is unwelcome and is an occupation force. The legality of the resolution rests on the charge that the US military has breached the original agreement of 2014, to enter Iraq to fight ISIS, by 2 attacks which killed Iraqi soldiers and a top Iraqi military official, among others.
“The government commits to revoke its request for assistance from the international coalition fighting Islamic State due to the end of military operations in Iraq and the achievement of victory,” and “The Iraqi government must work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, airspace or water for any reason.” the resolution read. “We want the government to end US presence in Iraq,” said 24-year-old Ahmed Hassan, adding, “That’s the least Iraq can do right now.”
Iraq declared victory over ISIS in December 2017, and that should have ended the Iraq-US agreement of 2014 which saw US military presence requested to fight ISIS, alongside Iraqi forces and militias. The US military presence was seen as a ‘guest who overstays their welcome’, which fueled anti-American sentiments in a country which suffered a past US invasion in 2003, and devastating occupation, which Iraq has never recovered from.
Riyad Muhammad Ali Al Masoudi, an Iraqi MO said, “We do not want to create a political or security void in this regard. What do we really want, is to preserve the Iraqi sovereignty and political future of the country. We hope this agreement will serve in the interests of Iraq, and will not be used against Iraq.”
Timeline of recent events:
December 27: a US civilian contractor was killed, and 4 US soldiers injured in an unclaimed attack on Kirkuk in the Kurdish region of Iraq.
December 29: the US attacked 3 Iraqi militia bases killing 24 Iraqi soldiers, and injuring dozens more in 5 airstrikes.
December 30: Iraqi PM Mehdi says Iraq must review their relationship with the US because of the killing of Iraqi soldiers.
December 31: the US embassy in Baghdad came under heavy attack because of the killing of Iraqi soldiers.
January 3: Iranian Major-General Qasim Soleimani and Iraqi commander, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, of the Popular Mobilization Forces, were assassinated near Baghdad’s international airport, as they arrived from Damascus, in drone-strike ordered by Trump.
January 5: the Iraqi Parliament passes a resolution to evict the US troops.
Calls for unity among the resistance
Since the US killings of soldiers and their commanders, a rare show of unity is called for by rival political leaders in Iraq. Iraqi cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, sent a letter to parliament, which listed demands including cancellation of the US-Iraqi agreement, the closure of the US embassy, the expulsion of US troops, and the prohibition of communicating with the US. “Finally, I call specifically on the Iraqi resistance groups and the groups outside Iraq more generally to meet immediately and announce the formation of the International Resistance Legions.”, said Sadr, who leads the largest bloc in parliament.
Why they hate us
Lesley Stahl, of the US TV program “60 Minutes” interviewed Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and speaking of US sanctions against Iraq she asked, “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And – and you know, is the price worth it?” Madeleine Albright answered, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.”
From 2003 to 2006 approximately 655,000 Iraqis had been killed as a result of the US invasion, according to ‘The Lancet’ study.
History of the occupation
The US invaded Iraq in 2003, and shortly after the fall of Baghdad, one Iraqi said, “We thank the Americans for getting rid of Saddam’s regime, but now Iraq must be run by Iraqis.” The US refused to heed the call for Iraqi freedom and democracy. President Bush declared ‘mission accomplished’ in May 2003, but refused to bring the troops home. By 2007, polls showed 78 % of Iraqis opposed the US occupation, and at one time the poll surged to 92 %. Although the US eventually left, the redeployment to Iraq in 2014 has morphed into a new occupation.
China lends hand
“We belong to Asia, and we want to be part of its rise,” Iraqi PM Mahdi said on a visit to Beijing. Iraq is suffering from infrastructure failures that have never been repaired since the US invasion and destruction. Iraq and China signed 8 agreements on Mahdi’s visit, for projects including roads, rail networks, houses, ports, hospitals, schools, water dams, energy, and transport. The project will start with a $10 billion line of credit, to be paid from oil exported to China.
Iraq-Syria border opens for business
Iraq reopened its Qaim border-crossing with Syria in September after eight years of closure and completes the Tehran to Beirut road. Qaim and the Syrian side of Bou Kamal were both freed from ISIS occupation by militias of both nations, as well as the Syrian Arab Army.
Iraq experts were wary when the border connecting Baghdad to Damascus was opened, and after the China-Iraq deals were signed they wondered when the US would take action to stop progress and to keep Iraq in the chaos which is the US strategic plan and cements the US troops in Iraq and Syria. Now, those same experts are wondering if the next step in Iraq will be to pull off a coup, replacing the defiant PM Mahdi with an Ahmed Chalabi clone.