The U.S. State Department released a statement on Friday saying American troops would remain in Iraq after Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to withdraw U.S. forces from the country.
“America is a force for good in the Middle East,” the statement from State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus read. “Any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership — not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East.”
Earlier on Friday Prime Minister Mahdi said he had objected to the continued American presence in Iraq during a phone conversation with Pompeo.
Mahdi implored Pompeo to send a delegation “to put forward mechanisms to implement the Iraqi Parliament’s decision to ensure safe withdrawal of troops from Iraq,” according to a statement from the prime minister’s office. Mahdi also told Pompeo, “there are American forces entering Iraq and American drones in its sky without permission from the Iraqi government, and that this is violation of the agreements between the two countries.”
On Sunday the Iraqi parliament passed a non-binding resolution urging the expulsion of foreign troops from the country. However, almost half of all parliament members were not present for the vote, especially representatives for Sunni Muslim and Kurdish voters.
Legal experts cited by the Washington Post called that resolution legally “worthless.” The U.S. and Iraq are bound by a strategic agreement that cannot be overturned by the non-binding resolution adopted on Sunday.
Last week President Trump ordered the killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a precision drone strike at Baghdad International Airport. Iran responded by firing 15 ballistic missiles at U.S. positions in Iraq, an attack which Iran later said was not intended to kill American troops.