US General Slips into Iraq for Talks to Salvage Relations

Elias Hubbard
February 5, 2020

After Soleimani's killing alongside top Iraqi paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Iran launched at least 15 missiles at two bases hosting USA forces in Iraq, causing traumatic brain injury to 50 United States service members but no deaths. And it raises questions about whether the appearance of a high-profile USA military commander could spur compromise, or simply inflame tensions and scuttle ongoing negotiations to put Patriot missile batteries in Iraq to better protect coalition forces.

Right now, he acknowledged that due to the current strain in relations, joint military operations and training between the US and the Iraqis have been scaled back.

McKenzie said it's hard to predict how Tuesday's discussions will pan out, particularly because the government is in transition.

Outgoing Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has stated publicly that US troops must go, but has stepped back from unilaterally cancelling existing agreements, saying the matter was up to the next prime minister to decide.

The U.S. -led coalition paused its mission to fight IS in Iraq on January 5 in the wake of the strike.

U.S. terrorist forces assassinated IRGC Quds Force commander Soleimani along with deputy PMU Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in an air raid on January 3. US leaders have largely dismissed calls for American troops, which number more than 6,000 in Iraq, to leave the country. That same day Shiite lawmakers, irate by what they called a flagrant violation of sovereignty, pushed a non-binding resolution requesting that the government cancel legal agreements that provide the basis for US troop presence in the country.

Some 5,200 US soldiers are stationed in Iraqi bases to support local troops fighting IS. But, he said, "we're still in a period of turbulence".

There were no Patriots or other air defenses in Iraq capable of shooting down ballistic missiles at the time of the Iranian strike.

"The Iraqis have not requested assistance with airstrikes in recent weeks, while our operations are paused".

ON January 8., Abdul Mahdi's spokesman said he had received word from Iran that its response to the USA assassination of its top general was either imminent or under way. McKenzie said he discussed the issue during his meetings but he declined to provide any details.

General McKenzie told reporters he believed the threat from Iran and its proxy forces in Iraq, Syria and other areas continued and that "it is a really unsafe time". The Pentagon also believes that continued training and operations are critical to prevent the resurgence of the Islamic State group.

Masjedi said the attack on the sprawling Ain al-Asad base, where the injuries were caused, was a response to Washington using "bases in the region ... and choosing Iraqi territory" to kill Soleimani - a suggestion that the drone strike was launched from Ain al-Asad.

However, McKenzie insisted he had a "moral obligation" to travel to Iraq at this time. Saudi Arabia has reportedly reached out to Iran through Iraqi government officials, expressing wish that Iraq could mediate between them.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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