US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has urged Mohammad Allawi, Iraq’s designated prime minister, to protect American troops even though the Arab country’s parliament has voted in favor of expelling them.
During a phone call with Allawi on Sunday, Pompeo “stressed Iraq’s obligation to protect US and coalition diplomats, forces and facilities,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
His remarks are the first substantive US comment on Allawi’s appointment as the new prime minister on February 1.
The Iraqi parliament voted on January 5 to oust all US forces following Washington’s assassination of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani and Iraq’s Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
Angered by the Iraqi parliament’s decision, Washington threatened to cut off Iraq’s access to a US-based key bank account where the Arab country’s oil revenues are kept.
President Donald Trump also threatened Iraqis with “sanctions like they’ve never seen before” if US troops were asked to leave. He suggested blocking some $35 billion of Iraqi money “right now sitting in an account” in the United States.
Washington’s insistence to stay in Iraq comes amid its attempts to end the presence of Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters, a move that has been condemned as interference in Iraq’s internal affairs.
Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters played a major role in the liberation of Daesh-held areas to the south, northeast and north of the Iraqi capital, ever since the terrorists launched an offensive in the country, overrunning vast swathes in lightning attacks.
In December 2019, Washington imposed sanctions targeting leaders of Iraq’s Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and Kata’ib Hezbollah groups which operate as part of the country’s Popular Mobilization Units, commonly known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi.
The US also conducted airstrikes targeting the anti-terror fighters, killing 25 people in one attack.