Iraq Updates: Parliament Endorses Ousting of U.S. Troops


Iraqi lawmakers voted 170-0 on Sunday in favor of expelling American troops from their country, just days after a United States drone strike killed the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force on Iraqi soil.

Although the vote is not final until the draft bill is signed by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi of Iraq, Mr. Madhi had indicated earlier on Sunday that he would do so.

The drone strike that killed the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, at the Baghdad airport on Friday also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, a coalition of Iranian-backed militias.

The attack was viewed in Iraq as a violation of the nation’s sovereignty, and the country’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that it had summoned the American ambassador in Baghdad.

Iraq’s Parliament was divided over demands from angry citizens to expel American troops. Many of its 328 members, primarily Kurds and Sunnis, did not attend Sunday’s session and did not vote.

The American-led coalition in Iraq and Syria said on Sunday that it was pausing its yearslong mission of attacking the Islamic State and training local forces in both countries as United States forces braced for retaliation from Iran over the killing of its top military commander.

A statement from the American command pointed to recent attacks on Iraqi and American bases, one of which killed an American contractor last month. “We have therefore paused these activities, subject to continuous review,” it said of the fight against ISIS.

After the killing last week of the commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani — who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of troops over the years — the approximately 5,200 troops in Iraq and several hundred in Syria are focused on fortifying their outposts.

Hundreds of thousands of mourners poured into the streets of Iran to pay their respects to Maj. General Qassim Suleimani on Sunday, one day after joint funerals were held in Baghdad for the slain Quds Force leader and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a powerful militia leader in Iraq and a close adviser to the general.

Both men were killed by an American drone strike early Friday at Baghdad’s airport, inflaming tensions between Washington and Tehran and raising fears that more violence will follow.

President Trump said he had ordered the airstrikes not just as retaliation for past attacks on Americans, but also to prevent “imminent and sinister attacks” on more Americans. But Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and its president, Hassan Rouhani, both promised that the country would take “revenge” for the killing.

Iran’s regional reach was visible during the services in Baghdad, which were as close to a state ceremony in Iraq as any since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Many mourners were members of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, militias that came together to fight the Islamic State — and the most powerful of which are affiliated with Iran.

Tens of thousands of pro-Iranian fighters marched through Baghdad, waving flags and chanting that “revenge is coming” to the United States. And Ayatollah Khamenei visited General Suleimani’s family on Friday to pay his condolences.

In a television interview with Iran’s state television, the general’s son Hossien said, “My father always used to tell us, ‘I’m seeking martyrdom.’ He realized his dream.”

Mr. al-Muhandis, one of Iran’s top lieutenants in Iraq, was accused of playing a role in embassy bombings in Kuwait in the 1980s and funneling weapons to pro-Iranian militias in the 2000s. Many Iraqis saw him as a hero for his role in the battle against the Islamic State.

After President Trump tweeted on Sunday that the United States had pinpointed 52 targets in Iran if there were to be any retaliation for the killing, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said on Twitter that “targeting cultural sites is a war crime.”

Mr. Zarif said that the “end of U.S. malign presence in West Asia has begun” after an American airstrike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Yet Mr. Trump also threatened on Twitter to hit Iran “harder than they have ever been hit before.”

“The United States just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment,” he said. “We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World! If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way … and without hesitation!”

In protest over that latest threat, Iran on Sunday summoned the Swiss envoy representing American interests in Tehran, Reuters reported.

The leader of Hezbollah, the Islamist movement backed by Iran, said in a speech Sunday that the American military would pay for killing General Suleimani, and that “fair punishment” would be aimed at targets such as military bases, warships and officers and soldiers in the region.

“When the coffins of American soldiers and officers begin to be transported,” said the militant leader, Hassan Nasrallah, according to Reuters, “Trump and his administration will realize that they have really lost the region and will lose the elections.”

American civilians, Mr. Nasrallah said, should not be targeted, saying “the American Army is the one that killed them.”

The State Department has classified Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and the United States has long sought to counter its influence as a political and military force. The group plays a large role in Lebanon’s government, and the militia has battled and skirmished repeatedly with Israel.

The United States also holds Hezbollah responsible for the 1983 suicide attack on a Marine base in Beirut, a bombing that killed 241 service members. In an apparent reference to that attack, Mr. Nasrallah said there were more potential suicide bombers in the region than before.

He called the airstrike in Baghdad “the start of a new phase and new history” for the Middle East.

The harsh rhetoric continued to fly on Sunday, Iran’s information and telecommunications minister calling President Trump is “a terrorist in a suit.”

The minister, Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi, wrote on Twitter: “Like ISIS, Like Hitler, Like Genghis! They all hate cultures. Trump is a terrorist in a suit. He will learn history very soon that NOBODY can defeat ‘the Great Iranian Nation & Culture.’”

And in Iran’s Parliament on Sunday, lawmakers chanted, “Death to America!” in unison as a protest over the United States’ killing of the two Iranian commanders.

Source : Nytimes