Iraq’s parliament this weekend voted to expel all US troops following an airstrike that killed two prominent military leaders on Friday.
The resolution, which is non-binding, calls on Iraq’s Prime Minister to withdraw an invitation sent to US forces when ISIS took hold of the country in 2014.
There are roughly 5,000 US troops stationed in Iraq.
Complicating matters is Prime Minister Adel-Abdul Mahdi’s current function as leader of a caretaker government following his resignation last year. Analysts say Iraq’s parliament would need to pass a law to force foreign troops out of the country and that the current government is unable to do so. Others say the troops will be forced out because the US lacks a formal agreement to occupy Iraq.
“In any case, the constitution, laws, processes have been ignored so many times before that it really doesn’t matter to focus on technicalities,” explains Sajad Jiyad, managing director of the Bayan Center think tank in Baghdad. “It’s a case of will the government be bold enough to take the initiative, or does it want to draw this out and pass the buck around?”
Speaking to reporters this weekend, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he is confident that the Iraqi people appreciate the ongoing presence of US soldiers, but that the Prime Minister is under pressure from Iran.
In the meantime, the US-led coalition in Iraq has suspended the training of local security forces as it braces for revenge attacks related to the airstrike. On Saturday, President Trump warned Iran it would be “hit very fast and very hard” if it moves against American soldiers or assets.
In addition to threats, Iran’s government has responded to the airstrike by discussing its next move away from the 2015 nuclear deal, which it warns will be ‘bigger than planned.’
Editor’s note: Iraq is very afraid of Iran, especially given the reduced presence of U.S. Troops in the country as compared to previous years. Iraq may believe that the U.S. might cut and run in the face of a full scale Iranian attack.
In addition, there is no doubt that individuals in the Iraqi government have been co-opted or coerced by Iran’s intelligence service. They have had no resistance in a disorganized and weakened Iraq.