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Iraqi PM says US foreign combat forces ‘not needed’ in Iraq

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi (File photo by AFP)

Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has said that his upcoming visit to Washington is aimed at regulating Iraq’s relations with the United States and pushing for the withdrawal of foreign combat forces from the Arab country.

In an interview with Saudi-owned al-Hadath television news network on Sunday, Kadhimi said there is no need for the presence of foreign combat forces on Iraqi soil.

He also said that he would not allow his country to be used to threaten its neighbors.

The Iraqi prime minister is scheduled to visit Washington next week to push for a concrete timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

On Thursday, Kadhimi and US envoy Brett McGurk discussed the issue in Baghdad.

The White House said on Friday that US President Joe Biden will meet Kadhimi on July 26 to discuss “the strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq.”

Baghdad-Washington relations have been complicated since the US assassination of Iran’s top anti-terror general Qassem Soleimani along with Deputy Commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization United (PMU) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis at Baghdad International Airport in January 2020, in a drone attack that was directly ordered by former US president Donald Trump.

The assassination sparked the Iraqi parliament to vote for the expulsion of all US-led foreign forces from the country, followed by US positions in Iraq being repeatedly targeted.

In response, the US, under both Trump and Biden, has attacked the positions of Iraqi resistance forces, in particular PMU forces, which played a significant role in defeating Daesh terrorist group and are officially part of the Iraqi military.

Iraq ‘no safe haven’ for US occupying forces

A member of the politburo of the Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq resistance group, which is part of the PMU, stressed the need to fight off the “terrorist US forces” in Iraq, saying there is no safe haven for the occupying American forces in the Arab country.

“Resistance groups intend to engage in a direct conflict with the US military,” Saad al-Saadi said, al-Ebaa news agency reported on Sunday.

Al-Saadi stressed that the security, political, and economic problems in Iraq are caused by the US.

He also called on Kadhimi to be sensitive about Iraq's sovereignty, noting that the Iraqi prime minister is facing a great challenge and he must prove his patriotism.

In remarks earlier this month, al-Saadi said Iraqi resistance groups had no choice but to confront the US militarily, noting that they stood ready to respond to any US attack against the PMU forces.

He also said the resistance groups gave diplomacy ample opportunity, but the US government took the opportunity to procrastinate, urging the Iraqi government to “demand the expulsion of Americans from Iraq.”

Some 3,500 foreign troops, including 2,500 Americans, are still in Iraq, with the alleged aim of preventing the re-emergence of Daesh in the country.

Observers, however, say Washington’s targeting of resistance forces is aimed at reviving Daesh and, in turn, prolonging its illegal occupation of Iraq under the pretext of fighting the terrorist group.

Kadhimi to visit Tehran after Raeisi’s inauguration

Elsewhere in his Sunday interview, Kadhimi said he will visit Tehran after the inauguration of new president Ebrahim Raeisi, who will be sworn in early next month.

“We hope that we will not be an arena for the US-Iranian conflict,” he said, emphasizing that Baghdad is in contact with Tehran because “we need stability.”

Kadhimi said negotiations between Iran and the US will impact the region. He also said talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia, hosted by Baghdad, will continue.

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