Iraq Votes To Send USA Home Until It Can Play Well With Others
Iraq's Parliament voted yesterday to expel US troops from the country following last week's assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike near the Baghdad airport. The vote is nonbinding unless the Iraqi government takes further action, but that could happen, too. Donald Trump threatened Iraq with sanctions if it tells the US to GTFO, because he is a big angry toddler with a lot of executive power.
The New York Times reports,
The troops will be limited to "training and advising" Iraqi forces, but will not be allowed to move off their bases or to fly in Iraqi airspace while plans are being made for their departure, said Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf, the military spokesman for Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.
Purely by coincidence, the US military in Iraq also announced it's suspending its operations in Iraq to focus on the troops' own security, which means it won't be fighting ISIS or training the Iraqi military for the time being, which are kind of the only official reasons US forces are still in Iraq anyway (Also OIL). Since Iraq is the base of operations for US attacks on ISIS inside Syria, that makes two countries where The Troops won't be fighting ISIS.
Oh, yeah, and Iran said it was entirely scrapping the 2015 international nuclear deal that Trump walked out on last year, so there's that, too. In other words, just another day that ends in heavy drinking.
Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi called for the vote Sunday, saying the drone attack had violated Iraq's sovereignty, and urging the Parliament to call for all foreign forces to leave the country. The US leads a coalition that technically includes 81 countries, but the main force consists of some 6,000 US troops.
Complicating matters a little bit is the fact that Abdul Mahdi resigned as prime minister last year in response to massive demonstrations, but since the parliament can't agree on a new prime minister, he's staying on in the job in a "caretaker" role. If the Parliament does decide on a new head guy, the final decision on foreign troops in Iraq could be made by his eventual replacement.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leaned on that detail in his own comments on the call for US troops to leave: Abdul Mahdi can safely be ignored, Pompeo said on "Fox News Sunday," because he's a fake leader anyway, referring to Abdul Mahdi as "the resigned prime minister" and "the acting prime minister." Gee, he has a point. If a government is full of acting officials, it certainly can't be very legitimate.
The vote Sunday was boycotted by many members of the Sunni and Kurdish minorities in the Parliament, but Shiite parties had enough votes to pass the measure even if the minority membership had voted.
Besides, Pompeo explained, Abdul Mahdi and the Shiite-majority Parliament are just pawns of Iran, don't you know, but most Iraqis love them some US troops:
He's under enormous threats from the very Iranian leadership that it is that we are pushing back against. [...] We are confident that the Iraqi people want the United States to continue to be there to fight the counterterror campaign. And we'll continue to do all the things we need to do to keep America safe.
Asked by Chris Wallace what the US would do if the Iraqi government issued a formal eviction notice, Pompeo was very clear on what would happen: It would be Obama's fault.
But the American people should know we'll make the right decision. We will take actions that, frankly, the previously administration refused to take to do just that.
Pompeo didn't get into any ugly details about how Iranian influence in Iraq is largely an outgrowth of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and George W. Bush's brilliant occupation strategy, which helped fuel Iraq's sectarian civil war. That stuff doesn't make for good sound bites.
The Washington Post explains the details of the 2014 agreement that authorizes the presence of US troops in Iraq; the gist is that the Iraqi executive has the power to say GTFO even without a formal law being passed by the Parliament. Iraq expert Ramzy Mardini, who formerly served in the State Department, explained,
If the prime minister rescinds the invitation, the U.S. military must leave, unless it wants to maintain what would be an illegal occupation in a hostile environment.
Not that an illegal occupation in a hostile environment would necessarily be an impediment to Donald Trump, who went into Full Rant Mode at the nonbinding vote.
"We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that's there," Mr. Trump said of Iraq. "It cost billions of dollars to build. Long before my time. We're not leaving unless they pay us back for it."
Mr. Trump then escalated his language, saying: "If they do ask us to leave, if we don't do it in a very friendly basis, we will charge them sanctions like they've never seen before ever. It'll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame."
"If there's any hostility, that they do anything we think is inappropriate, we are going to put sanctions on Iraq, very big sanctions on Iraq," Mr. Trump added.
"Charge them sanctions"? Why yes, that's how sanctions work; they're like an invoice. The guy who never paid his contractors doesn't really worry too much about little details like that. So unless he gets paid, possibly by sending Iraqi transport jets to refuel in Scotland while their crews stay at his hotel, Trump isn't gonna leave Iraq, no way. Plus, he's still figuring out how to take their oil.
In conclusion, Obama is responsible for all these problems that Donald Trump is fixing, and there's nothing to worry about because he's a great negotiator, the absolute best.
And this seems as good a place as any to remind you that our next Wonkette Book Club selection is 2006's Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, which explains just how simple the war in Iraq was. (Spoiler: not at all.) Grab a copy using the Wonkette kickback linky, or get it from your library or used bookstore, and we'll discuss it starting in a couple weeks, sometime the week of January 19.
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