Iraqi lawmakers are seen during a parliamentary session in Baghdad. Reuters
Mina AldroubiJanuary 6, 2019
Several Iraqi politicians demanded the withdrawal of American troops from the country on Sunday after a walking tour by a US general in Baghdad caused an uproar among those opposed the presence of foreign troops in Iraq.
General Austin Renforth, deputy commander of US forces, was pictured touring Al Mutanabi Street in the Iraqi capital on Saturday alongside the head of Baghdad military operations General Jalil Al Rubaie.
Since last December, a number of politicians and militia leaders have contested the continued presence of US forces in the country and some have called for a vote in parliament on whether to expel foreign troops from the country.
Populist cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, who won last year’s national elections, has campaigned to curb US and Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs.
“What happened on Saturday is a clear violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and independence, which showcases Washington’s agenda,” Hamdallah Rikabi, a spokesman for Mr Al Sadr’s parliamentary bloc, said in a statement on Sunday.
“We reject these cowardly acts and warn US forces to not to ensure this is not repeated,” Mr Rikabi said, adding that the government must issue an official explanation to the Iraqi public.
“Our position remains the same in rejecting American policies that do not respect the sovereignty of Iraq,” he said.
American forces are stationed in Iraq as part of the international anti-ISIS coalition. Washington withdrew its troops in 2011 after invading in 2003 but returned in 2014 at the invitation of the Iraqi government.
Hadi Al Amiri, a Shiite militia leader and one of the most powerful figures in Iraq, voiced his opposition to US requests to establish additional military bases in the country.
“Today Iraq needs to unite on a national level to achieve full sovereignty,” Mr Al Amiri said.
Last month, US President Donald Trump made an unannounced visit to Iraq to meet US troops stationed in west Anbar.
The move infuriated some lawmakers in Baghdad, who made comparisons to the occupation of Iraq after the 2003 invasion.
Qais Khazali, the head of the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl Al Haq militia that fought key battles against ISIS in northern Iraq, said after Mr Trump’s visit that Parliament should vote to expel US forces from Iraq, or the militias would force them out by “other means.”
Mr Khazali was imprisoned by British and US troops between 2007 and 2010 for involvment in a Shiite insurgency against the foreign forces.
The latest development comes as Iraq marked the 98th anniversary of the establishment of the Iraqi army. The army was activated on January 6, 1921 while under British rule.