President Trump has threatened Iraq with sanctions and a bill for billions of dollars if American troops are forced to withdraw from the nation after the Iraqi parliament, responding to a US airstrike that killed a powerful Iranian general on its soil, voted in favor of expelling American forces.
The Iraqi Parliament concluded its vote on Jan 5 (Sunday) in response to the killing of top Iranian official General Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad’s airport.
The vote marks one of the first tangible consequences of the strike that experts have predicted will dramatically shift political relations and destabilize an already volatile region.
Some Iraqi officials — including Prime Minister Mahdi — have complained that the American attack on Soleimani violated Iraqi sovereignty. Mahdi said he also explicitly told Trump in a phone call that the US was not to bring additional US military resources into the country.
“I put to the Parliament two options: one, ending the existence of these forces immediately and start the immediate arrangements for this; two, set a timeline for the departure of these forces.”-Iraqi PM Adel Abdul Mahdi
The parliamentary vote does not mean that US forces will be immediately expelled from the country. PM Mahdi would still need to sign off on a formal bill to complete the process.
While Mahdi supports the expulsion of US troops, he is only an interim PM, having tendered his resignation following mass protests in November 2019.
Soleimani’s killing follows a long series of escalations in the Middle East undertaken by the Trump administration. In 2018, President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and continued with a series of crippling sanctions over the country’s missile program and support for terrorism. Iran met each of these US actions with attacks on container ships in the Persian Gulf and drone strikes on Saudi oil facilities.
Following the killing of Soleimani, Iranian officials announced a major nuclear policy change. Iran has already begun stockpiling uranium and exceeding enrichment limits imposed by the nuclear agreement. Iranian officials now say the country will no longer abide by any of the commitments outlined in the deal.