0921 GMT April 10, 2021
Iraq’s parliament on Sunday voted to expel the United States military from the country after a US airstrike killed Iranian top general and the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units on Friday.
In an extraordinary parliamentary session, Iraqi lawmakers voted in favor of a resolution that calls for ending foreign military presence in the country. The resolution’s main aim is to get the US to withdraw some 5,000 US troops present in different parts of Iraq.
The vote comes two days after a US airstrike killed Iranian Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, dramatically increasing regional tensions.
The Iraqi resolution specifically calls for ending an agreement in which Washington sent troops to Iraq more than four years ago to help in the fight against the Daesh terrorist group.
The Iraqi lawmakers, citing Articles 59 and 109 of the Constitution, in line with their national and regulatory responsibilities as representatives to safeguard the security and sovereignty of Iraq, had earlier singed a four-point bill as follows:
Firstly, the central government in Baghdad is obliged to cancel its request to the US-led military coalition, which was purportedly fighting Daesh terrorists on the ground, now that military operations have ended in the country, and victory over Daesh has been achieved. The Iraqi government should therefore put an end to the presence of any foreign troops and prevent the use of Iraqi airspace.
Secondly, the government and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces must announce the number of foreign trainers they need, along with their locations, responsibilities, and duration of their contracts.
Thirdly, the Iraqi foreign minister, on behalf of the government, must turn to the United Nations Security Council to file a complaint against the United States for violations of Iraqi sovereignty and security.
Fourthly, the Iraqi government has been required to conduct a thorough investigation into the recent US airstrike in Baghdad and inform parliament of its results within seven days of the date of approval of this bill.
Finally, the plan comes into force once it obtains parliamentary approval.
Earlier in the day, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had said, “The end of the malign US presence in West Asia has begun” as the US president’s ramped up rhetoric against Iran followed the US assassination of the top Iranian general in Iraq.
“Whether kicking or screaming, end of the malign US presence in West Asia has begun,” the Iranian foreign minister tweeted on Sunday after US President Donald Trump threatened to hit dozens of targets in Iran “very fast and very hard” if it retaliates for the targeted killing of its top general.
In a series of saber-rattling tweets, Trump said that his administration had already targeted 52 Iranian sites, “some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture.” He linked the number of sites to the number of Americans, also 52, held at the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979-80 after protesters overran the diplomatic mission.
Zarif said that after committing “grave breaches” in assassinating General Qassem Soleimani, Trump is threatening new breaches of international law.
Iran’s top diplomat said that “targeting cultural sites is a WAR CRIME” and a red line in international law.
“A reminder to those hallucinating about emulating ISIS [Daesh] war crimes by targeting our cultural heritage: Through MILLENNIA of history, barbarians have come and ravaged our cities, razed our monuments and burnt our libraries,” Zarif said.
“Where are they now? We’re still here & standing tall.”
Trump, a ‘terrorist in a suit’
Iran’s Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi compared Trump’s threats to the Daesh terrorist group, Adolf Hitler and Genghis Khan.
“They all hate cultures. Trump is a ‘terrorist in a suit’,” Jahromi wrote on Twitter, warning that nobody can defeat Iran.
For the chief of Iran’s Army, the threat was an attempt to distract the world from Soleimani’s “unjustifiable” assassination.
“I doubt they have the courage to initiate” a conflict in the future, said Major General Seyyed Abdolrahim Mousavi.
In the early hours of Friday, a US airstrike killed Iran’s IRGC Quds Force Commander Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
Following the US attack, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said those who assassinated General Soleimani must await a harsh revenge.
Ayatollah Khamenei said the “cruelest people on earth” assassinated the “honorable” commander who “courageously fought for years against the evils and bandits of the world.”
Speaking to CNN, Hassan Dehqan, senior military advisor to the Leader, said that “The response for sure will be military and against military sites.”
Dehqan said that Iran had not sought war, but that America had started one, and that the Americans should expect an appropriate response. “The only thing that can end this period of war is for the Americans to receive a blow that is equal to the blow they have inflicted. Afterward they should not seek a new cycle.”
The Pentagon has claimed that the attack that killed the top anti-terror commander along with nine Iranians and Iraqis at the Baghdad airport aimed to deter Iranian plans to target American interests in the region.
“US officials lying”
Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said US officials’ claims that General Soleimani was developing plans to imminently attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and elsewhere are lies.
“This claim is nothing but a lie. The American people and lawmakers should know that the US president tells lies in order to cover up a war crime and a terrorist act,” Larijani told a Parliament session Sunday.
The Iranian speaker said Trump and other US officials were only trying to deceive the Americans, and challenged them to reveal any evidence they had about the alleged Iranian plans.
The assassination came after Pentagon chief, Mark Esper, said Thursday the US saw indications that Iran and Iranian-backed groups might be planning strikes on US forces in the Middle East, and threatened “pre-emptive” military action.
“Benefiting from law of jungle”
Larijani said the US is using “pre-emptive” action as an excuse to “benefit from the law of the jungle.”
The Secretary General of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement said the US killing of a top Iranian general puts the entire region at the beginning of a “completely new phase.”
Assassination will transform Middle East
Speaking before thousands of supporters at a rally in southern Beirut, Hassan Nasrallah called the killing of General Soleimani a “clear, blatant crime” that will transform the Middle East.
Sunday’s comments were his first public statements since Soleimani was assassinated by the US airstrike in Iraq.
Meanwhile, the deputy leader of Hezbollah said the US carried out a “very stupid act” by assassinating Iran’s top commander.
Sheikh Naim Qassem made his comments on Sunday after a visit to the Iranian Embassy in Beirut where he offered condolences. He said the attack will make Tehran and its allies stronger.
Fears of a conflict in the region have prompted world leaders to call on Iran and the US to ease tensions.
Oman, which maintains friendly ties with both the United States and Iran, urged both countries to seek dialogue in order to ease tensions, Oman News Agency reported.
UK de-escalation efforts
Britain’s foreign secretary said that Britain was trying to “de-escalate” the volatile situation.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK was discussing with top officials in the US and Europe, as well as in Iran and Iraq, about how to avoid a war, which he said wouldn’t be in anyone’s interests.
However, he said that the UK understood the US’s “position” and “right to exercise self-defense.”
Britain’s Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said late Saturday that he had ordered two British Navy warships, the HMS Montrose frigate and the HMS Defender destroyer, to return to the Strait of Hormuz amid the soaring regional tensions.
Pope calls for dialogue
Pope Francis called on Sunday for dialogue and restraint two days after the assassination of the Iranian commander.
Speaking at the Sunday Angelus prayer at the Vatican, the pope did not mention Iran by name but spoke of a terrible air of tension that could now be felt in many parts of the world.
“I call on all sides to keep the flame of dialogue and self-restraint alight and ward off the shadow of hostility,” he said.
“War only brings death and destruction.”