Iraq's parliament has voted unanimously to end the presence of foreign forces in the country, outraged by a US strike that killed Iranian and Iraqi commanders. 5,200 US soldiers are stationed across Iraq after a 2014 invitation by the government to support local troops fighting the Islamic State group (IS).
"The parliament has voted to commit the Iraqi government to cancel its request to the international coalition for help to fight IS," speaker Mohammed Halbusi announced, after parliament passed a bill requiring the Iraqi government to end the presence of US-led forces in the country, and preventing them from using Iraqi airspace and water.
The ligislation passed with 170 votes in favor, 5 more than an absolute majority, and 0 against. It was voted days after a US precision drone strike killed Iran's Quds Forces commander Qassem Suleimani and Iraqi paramilitary heavyweight Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
Kurds in favour of US troops
In an interview with the Kurdish Rudaw news website, Othman Ali, a professor at Salahaddin University in Erbil, called for the US-led coalition to stay, saying: “Kurdistan needs the Americans because the Daesh [IS] war is not finished.”
He also points out that the current Iraqi government, led by Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, is a caretaker government. Mahdi officially resigned on 1 December but will continue to lead the interim government until parliament forms a new one.
Othman argues that a caretaker government does not have the authority to alter the status of the bilateral treaty covering US troop presence in Iraq.
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Anti-Daesh coalition suspends operations
Earlier, the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, or CJTF-OIR, the US-led coalition's official title – issued a statement saying that “repeated rocket attacks over the last two months by elements of Kataib Hezbollah have caused the death of Iraqi Security Forces personnel and a US civilian.
“As a result we are now fully committed to protecting the Iraqi bases that host Coalition troops...we have therefore paused these activities, subject to continuous review,” adding that the US “remains ready to return full attention and efforts to our shared goal of ensuring the lasting defeat of Daesh”.
Daesh far from defeated
Currently, the CJTF-OIR coalition consists of 72 countries supported by Nato and the EU. France's “Opération Chammal” is part of the force, involving around 1,000 troops, 11 Rafale fighter jets, and non-permanent deployment of a E-3F Awacs and a frigate.
Monthly "strike reports" incidate the struggle against IS is far from over: between 16 and 29 December 2019 alone, the coalition engaged 666 IS tactical units and destroyed 291 fighting positions in Syria, and destroyed 13 tactical units in Iraq.