Council of Representatives votes to expel foreign troops from Iraq

Kurds and Sunnis did not participate in session
Lawmakers attend a session of Council of Representatives to vote on legislation asking the government to expel foreign troops from the country, January 5, 2020.

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SULAIMANI — The Council of Representatives on Sunday (January 5) voted in favor of a resolution calling for the end of the presence of foreign troops in Iraq, just two days after the US killed a top Iranian general and a militia commander in a drone strike in Baghdad.

Before the vote, caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi arrived at the parliament to address lawmakers in person about the strike, which killed Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani and militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, along with several others.

NRT Digital Media's Omed Mohammed said that the Kurdish and Sunni blocs did not participate in the session, leaving the Shia parties in control of proceedings.

“We are determined to make a national decision about this matter,” Abdul Mahdi said.

We have two options: one to end the presence of foreign troops in Iraq in a speedy measure or, two, to return to the previous decisions of the previous cabinet, which called for the prevention of the foreign troops’ presence in Iraq, and just to stay to train Iraqi forces for the fight against Daesh,” he added, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State (ISIS).

He said that he favored the first option, arguing that Iraq is able to preserve its sovereignty without the presence of the foreign troops.

“Those attacks had no legal basis,” Abdul Mahdi said, referring to the US strike that killed Soleimani and Muhandis and an earlier US attack in which 25 militia fighters died.

“US drones and helicopters are flying in Iraqi skies without asking for permission from the federal government,” he said.

Describing the situation more broadly, the caretaker prime minister said that Soleimani was scheduled to meet him during the visit to Baghdad when he was killed, adding that Soleimani had a message from Iran to Saudi Arabia calling for de-escalation in the Middle East. 

While aiming most of his criticism at the US, Abdul Mahdi also said that Iraq was an enemy of the US either. He said that Baghdad had called on the US to send more troops to protect the US embassy in Baghdad, where Iran-backed Shia militia supporters gathered to condemn US strikes on Hashd al-Shaabi last week.  

Following Abdul Mahdi's speech, lawmakers voted to approve the resolution, which asked the government to expel US troops from the country and to end the security agreement with the US-led coalition that has been training Iraqi forces as a part of the global campaign to defeat Islamic State.

NRT's reporter said that a clause was also added to the legislation calling for weapons only  to be in the hands of official government forces.

The lawmakers also voted to submit a complaint to the United Nations against the United States for violating the sovereignty of Iraq.

(NRT Digital Media)

*This story was updated at 07:08 p.m. EBL time