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Pressure Growing in Iraq for Expulsion of US Troops

The targeted killing last night of a commander of the Kata’ib Hezbollah in eastern Baghdad has caused an uproar in Iraq and greater tensions between Washington and Baghdad. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani is under tremendous pressure to speed up the departure of all foreign forces from Iraq. The parliament passed a resolution following the US assassination of IRGC General Qassam Soliemani in Baghdad in 2020 and is now scheduled to meet in an emergency session on Feb. 10, to act on a new resolution to expel US troops from the country.

Maj. Gen. Yahya Rasool, spokesman for Al-Sudani, warned today of Iraq slipping into the vortex of ongoing conflict in the region, due to the repeated US attacks, reported Shafaq News. “The US forces have repeated, irresponsibly, all the actions that would undermine the established understandings and hinder the initiation of bilateral dialogue. It conducted a blatant assassination through an airstrike in the heart of a residential neighborhood in the capital, Baghdad, showing no regard for civilian lives or international laws,” he said. “By this act, the US forces jeopardize civil peace, violate Iraqi sovereignty, and disregard the safety and lives of our citizens. Even more concerning is that the Global Coalition consistently deviates from the reasons and objectives for its presence on our territory.”

Rasool added: “This trajectory compels the Iraqi government more than ever to terminate the mission of this Coalition, which has become a factor for instability and threatens to entangle Iraq in the cycle of conflict, and our armed forces cannot neglect their constitutional duties and responsibilities, which demand safeguarding the security of Iraqis and the land of Iraq from all threats.”

Al-Sudani himself reportedly told Al Arabiya in an interview (apparently aired prior to last night’s drone strike) that the US-led military coalition will eventually wind down its operations in Iraq and will end its mission at the Baghdad government’s official request. “The main purpose of winding down the US-led military coalition’s mission is to eliminate all possible pretexts for attacks on its advisors,” he said.

According to the same report, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, in a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Feb. 7, stressed the Iraqi government’s rejection of the latest US airstrikes and such attacks. He said that “Iraq is not an arena for settling scores between rival countries.”

The Associated Press cited Iraqi militia officials identifying the target of last night’s drone strike as Wissam Muhammad Sabir Al-Saadi, known as Abu Baqir Al-Saadi, the commander in charge of Kataib Hezbollah’s operations in Syria. They also said that two others died with him. AP also noted that Kataib Hezbollah had said in a statement that it was suspending attacks on American troops to avoid “embarrassing the Iraqi government” after the strike in Jordan, but others have vowed to continue fighting.

According to the New York Times, a U.S. official said that the strike was a “dynamic” hit on the militia commander, whom American intelligence officials had been tracking for some time, without, apparently, saying for how long. A second official said the United States reserved the right to strike other Shiite militia leaders and commanders.