Washington is not willing to bow to Iraqi demands to withdraw its troops and any future discussions with Baghdad will be purely confined to the future structure of its forces in the country, the US state department has said.
The recommitment to US troops in Iraq defies an Iraqi parliament vote last week demanding all US forces leave in the wake of the killing of the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani by a drone strike in Baghdad. The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said the US was only willing to discuss force reconfiguration with the Iraqis, and a greater contribution by Nato forces.
Pompeo, still under pressure about the legality of the attack, defended the breach of Iraqi sovereignty inherent in the killing by insisting there was clear evidence that Suleimani “had been plotting a large-scale imminent attack on US facilities throughout the region, including US embassies”.
Later, Donald Trump teased some more details in a manner unlikely to satisfy sceptics. “We will tell you probably it was going to be the embassy in Baghdad,” the president told Fox News. “I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies.”
Tens of thousands of Iraqis joined protests in Baghdad and southern cities on Friday denouncing government corruption, Iran and the US for threatening to drag Iraq into a regional war.
“I curse the father of Iran and America,” shouted the crowds as they circled the square, threading their way in between pushcarts selling boiled turnip, sweetmeats and scarves.
“These parties are all Theyol (tails) to their masters in Iran,” said one female protester who covered her face in an Iraqi flag.
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SOURCE: The Guardian, Patrick Winter, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, and Jennifer Rankin