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Iraq will adopt different approach in case US troops refuse to withdraw: Badr bloc

In this file picture taken on June 21, 2017 a US soldier advising Iraqi forces is seen in the city of Mosul, during the ongoing offensive by Iraqi troops to retake the last bastion held by members of the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group. (Photo by AFP)

Iraq will adopt a different position on the presence of US and foreign military personnel on its soil if the troops refuse to withdraw despite demands by Baghdad as well as a related parliamentary resolution and a million-man demonstration to that end, the head of an Iraqi parliamentary bloc says.

“The country’s sovereignty must be respected by all parties operating on the Iraqi soil, especially Americans or the international coalition (purportedly fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group). It is not acceptable to allow violations that lead to the shedding of Iraqi blood,” said Hassan al-Kaabi, the head of the Badr Organization’s parliamentary bloc, in an exclusive interview with Arabic-language Baghdad Today news agency on Sunday.

“The government is required to take serious action following the recent aggression carried out by Washington to deal with the issue of the exit of foreign and American forces from the country through diplomatic channels,” he said.

“Washington or member states of the coalition are intransigent to leave Iraq, and insist on their stay without any legal permission. This will have negative and adverse repercussions on those forces,” Kaabi added.

Iraq govt. must take position proportionate to US aggression: Hashd al-Sha’abi leader

In a related development, a leader of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi, called on the Iraqi government to take a position similar in kind to a string of airstrikes carried out by the United States against multiple locations of army soldiers and PMU forces.

“The US bombing of the headquarters of Iraqi army and PMU besides a civilian airport sends many messages and is a clear declaration of American hostility toward Iraqi people, security forces and their sanctities,” Arabic-language al-Maalomah news agency quoted Adel al-Karawi as saying on Sunday.

“The current situation requires the Iraqi government to adopt a measure that would equate the US act of aggression, and does not refrain from condemnations and making damning statements.”

‘US staged strike on Camp Taji to justify assault on Hashd Sha’abi’

Separately, a member of the Iraqi parliamentary security and defense committee accused the United States of staging a false-flag operation against Camp Taji, which is located approximately 27 kilometers (17 miles) north of the capital Baghdad and houses US-led troops, in order to find a compelling justification for air raids on Hashd Sha’abi positions.

“The Iraqi government and the Joint Operations Command censured the repeated US aggression, but it is unlikely for the parliament to hold a session in this regard,” Abbas Sarout said in an exclusive interview with Iraq’s al-Ahad television network on Sunday.

“Whoever struck Camp Taji is an unknown enemy, because neither resistance groups nor any other parties have claimed responsibility, and that the military base is protected by Iraqi security forces. The US targeting of security forces and the civilian airport in Karbala is considered to be a flagrant violation of the Iraqi sovereignty, which is condemned.”

“We do not rule out the presence of other parties, which aim to heighten tensions among resistance groups, US forces and neighboring Iran. It is perhaps a false-flag operation by American forces to find a justification for the destruction of infrastructure and storage facilities of Hashd Sha’abi forces,” Sarout said.

The Iraqi military said in a statement on Saturday that 33 Katyusha rockets had been launched on Camp Taji.

The statement added that the airstrikes targeted positions in Jurf al-Nasr town, located about 60 kilometers southwest of Baghdad, Musayyib town in the central province of Babil, the holy shrine city of Najaf as well as the ancient central city of Alexandria.

The US military did not estimate how many people in Iraq may have been killed in the strikes, which officials said were carried out by piloted aircraft.

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, in a Pentagon statement detailing the strikes, cautioned that the United States was prepared to respond again, if needed.

“We will take any action necessary to protect our forces in Iraq and the region.”

An airport under construction in Karbala was also hit in an airstrike.

An official told Arabic-language al-Sumaria television network on Friday that US military aircraft fired three missiles at the airport building. He added that the air raid killed a worker.

CNN, quoting a US military official, reported that the airstrikes were carried out against five weapons storage facilities.

The early Friday US airstrikes were carried out about 24 hours after at least 18 PMU fighters were killed in air raids targeting an area southeast of the city of al-Bukamal in eastern Syria and near the border with Iraq.

Anti-American sentiment has been running high in Iraq following the assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), along with the deputy head of the PMU, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and their companions in a US airstrike authorized by President Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport on January 3.

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