The Iraqi Parliament voted Sunday to obligate Iraq’s government “to work towards ending the presence of all foreign troops on Iraqi soil,” according to the media office of the Iraqi Parliament.
The vote represents a rebuke of the United States over its targeted airstrike on Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani at Baghdad International Airport in Iraq early Friday. The attack has sharply escalated tensions with Iran and has pushed Iraq to reconsider the presence of American troops in the region.
Iraqi officials were preparing a memorandum for the withdrawal of foreign forces Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi told French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in a phone conversation.
Muqtada al-Sadr, a leading Shia cleric and the head of Iraq’s largest political bloc, Saeroun, called the Iraqi Parliament’s vote Sunday a “weak response in comparison to American violations of Iraqi sovereignty.”He called for Parliament to terminate the security agreement with the United States immediately and to close the “evil American embassy” and all American bases immediately.
US officials tried to persuade Iraqi leaders to stop the parliamentary vote Sunday, according to two sources familiar with the discussions. Despite US officials claiming it would be harmful for Iraq to follow through on such a move and hold the vote at all, ultimately the argument fell flat. Axios was first to report this push by US officials.
“The mood in the country was pushing for it,” one source familiar with the discussions said of the vote. “This was not something that could have been avoided.”
The US was “disappointed” in Iraq’s actions Sunday, a US State Department spokeswoman said.
“We strongly urge Iraqi leaders to reconsider the importance of the ongoing economic and security relationship between the two countries and the continued presence of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS,” said spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus. “We believe it is in the shared interests of the United States and Iraq to continue fighting ISIS together.”
US State Department and National Security Council officials plan to meet with Iraqi officials Monday and Tuesday in Washington.
Adding to the rising tensions between the United States and Iran was an announcement Sunday by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who tweeted that Iranian cabinet members decided the country will no longer limit itself to the nuclear restrictions set forth by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the international nuclear deal reached in 2015 between Iran and a handful of other countries.
The body of Soleimani, a top general and one of the most powerful men in Iran, arrived in his home country on Sunday and was met by thousands of mourners who flooded the streets to honor him. His body and the bodies of his companions arrived in Tehran on Monday morning to massive crowds, according to Iran’s Press TV.
Mourners gathered in Iran’s western town of Ahvaz, where the bodies of Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi militia leader also killed in the drone strikes, arrived earlier Sunday.