US Rebuffs Iraq PM Request To Talk Troop Exit: It's "Our Right" As A "Force For Good" To Stay

Perhaps entirely to be expected, the US administration has unambiguously rejected Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi's urgent call for Washington to enact a US troop 'withdrawal mechanism' in Iraq. In a Thursday phone call to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Iraqi leader urged the administration to “send delegates to Iraq to prepare a mechanism to carry out the parliament’s resolution regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq.”

Echoing prior statements of Mark Esper, the State Department underscored Friday that it's "our right" as a "force for good" in the region to maintain "appropriate force posture in the Middle East" in a statement by spokesperson Morgan Ortagus. She stated the US considers that a troop pullout is not on the table for discussion with Baghdad officials.

"At this time, any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership — not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East," Ortagus said. The words also appear aimed at Abdul-Mahdi's assertion that US forces were operating "without permission".

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a prior Middle East tour in early 2019, via the AP.

"America is a force for good in the Middle East," she added. "Our military presence in Iraq is to continue the fight against ISIS and as the Secretary has said, we are committed to protecting Americans, Iraqis, and our coalition partners."

And yet President Trump has previously declared the total demise of the Islamic State's "territorial caliphate" — which has long been the main rationale for the Pentagon being there. 

According to most estimates the US troop presence numbers around 5,000, which the Iraqi PM would like to see exit following a vote in Iraqi parliament early this week pushing through an initial non-binding resolution. Abdul-Mahdi requested that a US delegation be sent to Baghdad work out a precise plan for major US pullout. 

“The prime minister said American forces had entered Iraq and drones are flying in its airspace without permission from Iraqi authorities and this was a violation of the bilateral agreements,” the Iraqi leader's statement said.

According to Axios, US officials attempted to halt the weekend Iraq parliament vote to expel American forces. "It's our concern that Iraq would take a short-term decision that would have catastrophic long-term implications for the country and its security," one unnamed Trump administration official was quoted as saying. 

"But it's also, what would happen to them financially," the official told Axios. "If they allowed Iran to take advantage of their economy to such an extent that they would fall under the sanctions that are on Iran?”

The supreme irony in all this is that seventeen years after Bush declared the "liberation" of the Iraqi people after his 2003 invasion, this is apparently what US-imposed "democracy" looks like Washington issuing dictates on how to run the country from thousands of miles away, coupled with threat of sanctions if Baghdad doesn't comply.