09 April 2020
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US 'enormously disappointed' with Iraq’s failure to protect American troops

Sunday, 22 March 2020 04:07
US Brigadier General Vincent Barker tours the US base in Qaim. AFP US Brigadier General Vincent Barker tours the US base in Qaim. AFP

The Trump administration voiced an “enormous disappointment” in Iraq's caretaker government on Friday, following attacks on US coalition troops that killed at two American soldiers this month.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Schenker said the situation is “a high point of contention” between the two countries.

Speaking from the State Department, he said “it’s no secret that we’ve been, I think, enormously disappointed with the performance of the Government of Iraq in fulfilling its obligations to protect coalition forces, particularly American forces, who are in Iraq at the invitation of the government.”

He warned that “the Iraqi Government is at a decision point. If it doesn’t take steps to hold accountable those responsible for the attacks on coalition forces, which are there at the invitation of the Iraqi Government, the US will be forced to continue to protect our forces proactively”.

Asked what he means by proactive, Mr Schenker referenced airstrikes carried by US against former Iranian General Qassem Suleimani and other targeting militias that Washington holds responsible for the attacks.

“We can go out and be proactive about our defense, in defense of our people and our facilities, whether it’s military or diplomatic” he said.

The Iraqi parliament voted in January in favour of the government expelling thousands of US troops from the country, but since then two prime ministers have resigned including Adil Abdul Mahdi, and Mohammed Allawi.

Last week Adnan Al Zurfi was selected as a Prime Minister designate.

Mr Schenker said Al Zurfi is someone that the US “knows well”. But he argued that “it is far from certain, given the nature of Iraqi politics whether Mr Zurfi will be able to form a government.

“His predecessor, Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, tried very hard to do so and wasn’t able to,” the US official said.

As far as US demands, Mr Schenker said the US is looking to “hold those accountable in Iraq who have killed over 600 protesters, but also be interested in [a PM] putting Iraq first and demonstrating that they are an Iraqi patriot and wanting to have Iraq be a sovereign nation rather than a vassal state of Iran”.

But if he succeeds in forming a government, Mr Schenker said “the new prime minister-designate, Adnan Zurfi, has an opportunity to meet the many challenges facing Iraq.”

He added that US won’t base its decision on individuals but on principles.

He once again criticised Iranian meddling in neighbouring Iraq. “This is a fractious country with divided politics, and there’s an enormous amount of Iranian meddling and threats that is just counterproductive,” Mr Schenker said.

The official justified other changes for US forces in Iraq including training mission to the spread of COVID-19. Iraq has reported over 200 cases and at least 17 died from the virus.

Source: The National

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