Contributed by Adam Carlton
Despite the Iraqi government’s vote to have United States troops leave the country, Washington has signalled that it has no intent to respect this.
General Frank McKenzie, chief of the US Central command told reporters last week, after having met Iraq’s new Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in Baghdad.
Disregarding the vote of the parliament and unrest throughout the country over the presence, he said:
“I believe that going forward, they (Iraqis) going to want us to be with them,” adding that US forces will remain for the foreseeable future.
The unpopularity of the American presence reached a new height after the assassination of Anti-Islamic State Irani Lieutenant-General Qassem Soleimani, and Iraqi Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who commanded Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), which was similarly engaged in fighting Islamic State.
Iraqis believe the military presence of the United States is a toxic case of occupation by a foreign power.
They are not buying the claim that they have been there to defeat Islamic State, when actions show they are protecting it.
Involvement in Iraq, however, also has its political aspect, in the shape of active support for more friendly political forces. This was an important aspect behind the stalemate around last year’s presidential election, where both candidates claimed victory. The resultant stalemate led to an uneasy compromise that weakened the government’s position.
This is why opponents of the arrangement are talking of a soft coup.
“America supports and sponsors terrorism in Iraq, elsewhere in the world and even on its soil in a bid to oppress its own nation. The US seeks to dissolve the PMU, warned member of parliament Muhammad al-Baldawi.
In March, the New York Times reported that the Pentagon had ordered a secret directive, which called on US military commanders to prepare a campaign against Kata’ib Hezbollah, which is part of the PMU.
The popular anti-terror group is a thorn in the side of the United States which is widely believed to be managing an array of Islamic state associated militant groups.
The US, backed by the UK, Australia and a few other nations, invaded Iraq in 2003 under the pretext that the former President Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons, however, were ever found in the country.
Between 5,000 and 6,000 occupying US troops are still in Iraq.