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Shia leader threatens of ‘expelling US troops by force’ from Iraq

Qais Al-Khaz’ali, the leader of the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl Al-Haq (AAH) Shia militia
Qais al-Khazali, the leader of Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq, urged the government to provide a more formal, long-term border protection role for the militias.

“The United States (US)’s troops may eventually be driven out by force if they do not yield to the will of the Iraqi people,” the head of the Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl Al-Haq Shia group warned yesterday.

Qais Al-Khazali told the Associated Press (AP) he was “certain and confident” that a parliament vote would be carried out next month demanding the withdrawal of the US troops in the country.

“I think more than half the members of parliament reject the presence of American military forces as a matter of principle, Al-Khazali noted, stressing that Iraq would “drive the US troops out of the country [Iraq] by force,” if they imposed its presence by force and bypassed the Iraqi constitution and parliament.

Pointing to the US presence’s alibi of confronting the military danger posed by Daesh in Iraq, the Shiite leader stressed that the threat was “eliminated.” “What is the justification for keeping this number [of troops] now?”

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Al-Khazali, 45, suggested that a small “contingent of advisers and trainers for logistical matters” could remain in Iraq as determined by a joint committee that would specify their numbers and locations. “Anything other than that will be considered an infringement on sovereignty by the Iraqi parliament, the Iraqi people and political factions, including ours, and we won’t allow it,” he said.

The US President Donald Trump, during his visit to the US troops late December, said he had no plans to withdraw the 5,200 troops in the country and that Iraq could be used for US airstrikes inside Syria after the US withdraws its troops from there. His visit was criticised by Iraqi politicians as Trump visited American forces at a base in western Iraq without meeting with any Iraqi officials.

Asaib Ahl Al-Haq in one of the most important elements of the Iraqi state-sponsored Popular Mobilization Forces. During last year’s parliament elections, it made significant gains, is now represented by a 15-member bloc in the parliament. The group’s forces fight in Syria alongside President Bashar Al-Assad’s troops.

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