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Existence of US bases violation of Iraq’s sovereignty, says Asa’ib leader

A US soldier poses for a photo while bulldozers clear rubble and debris at Ain al-Assad air base in Anbar, Iraq, on Jan. 13, 2020, days after it was targeted in a retaliatory missile strike by Iran. (File photo by AP)

A faction of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), also known as Hashd al-Sha’abi, has rejected as offensive the presence of foreign forces in Iraq with the professed aim of “protecting” the Arab country, calling the existence of US bases in Iraq a violation of the country’s sovereignty.

“To say that Iraq needs foreign forces to defend its territory is an insult to the Iraqi military and security institutions, including the army and Hashd al-Sha’abi,” Qais Khazali, who leads the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq resistance group, wrote in a tweet on Wednesday evening.

Khazali said it was the Iraqi fighters who managed to defeat the Daesh terrorist group and its sponsors without needing the assistance of foreign forces.

On Wednesday, the US and Iraq announced in a joint statement that they have agreed on the eventual withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq, while a remaining mission of US forces will be focused on what was called “training” Iraqi troops.

The statement, however, said the two governments have not yet worked out the timing of the American forces’ withdrawal and would hold discussions on the matter.

About 2,500 US troops are in Iraq on the pretext of fighting Daesh terrorists. The Wednesday statement said the Iraqi forces had now outgrown American assistance due to the success of Washington and Baghdad’s strategic partnership.

Khazali said since Daesh elements have become a security threat rather than a military threat, the US air force is no longer needed and Iraq should rely on its own air force.

He called on the Iraqi negotiating team not to allow Americans to find new excuses to extend their presence on Iraq’s soil, adding that the Americans are seeking “permits” to stay in Iraq through justifying their presence.

“The presence of US military bases and combat forces alongside US dominance over Iraqi airspace is a clear act of occupation,” he stated.

Khazali further said that the existence of US military bases of Ain al-Assad in western Iraq and al-Harir in northern Iraq is a blatant violation of the country’s sovereignty and will be rejected by the Iraqi people.

Iraqi people’s calls for the expulsion of American forces have grown rapidly since the US military’s assassination of top Iranian and Iraqi anti-terror commanders — Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of Iraq’s PMU — near Baghdad on January 3, 2020.

Iraqi lawmakers, days after the high-profile assassination, approved a bill requiring the Baghdad government to end the presence of all foreign military forces in the Arab country.

Last week, Khazali said armed resistance against American forces occupying Iraq will persist until they are fully removed from the country, especially in the west and in the north of the country, where the two aforementioned bases are located.

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