[pjw] NEWS: US planning to pull out of Baghdad embassy (Wash Post 9/27)

Peace and Justice Works pjw at pjw.info
Sun Sep 27 21:08:44 EDT 2020

Hello Iraq Affinity Group supporters

I did say I was going to send out the text of our fact sheet today-- time 
got away from me. I also try not to send bulk emails out after 5 PM on any 
given day, but... there's big news the Washington Post broke about an hour 
ago!! The US is saying they plan to pull out of the fortress-- er, embassy 
in Baghdad. Now, there are a lot of caveats including that it will take 90 
days to make this happen (ie, until after the election) and the Iraqi PM 
is saying they want the US to reconsider. I would ask why? They're 
occupying your country, taking up a whopping 104 acres in your capital, 
and you want them to stop having a military presence. This may be a Trump 
decision but it's a good one!

OK, I guess we'll have to see what happens.
dan handelman
peace and justice works iraq affinity group

U.S. tells Iraq it's planning to pull out of Baghdad embassy
   The Washington Post September 27, 2020
    Louisa   Loveluck, Missy Ryan, John Hudson

    BEIRUT --The United States has told the Iraqi government and its
    diplomatic partners that it's planning a full withdrawal from its
    embassy in Baghdad unless Iraq reins in attacks on personnel linked to
    the American presence there -- a move that Iraqi officials said caught
    them by surprise.

    "We hope the American administration will reconsider it," Ahmed Mulla
    Talal, a spokesman for Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, said Sunday.
    "There are outlaw groups that try to shake this relationship, and
    closing the embassy would send a negative message to them."

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified Kadhimi of the plans Saturday
    night, according to an official familiar with the matter. Two Western
    officials in Baghdad said their country's diplomatic missions had been
    informed of the plan.

    It was unclear on Sunday whether the White House had signed off on a
    possible departure and what might prompt the Trump administration to
    shelve the plan. If the administration moves forward, closing the
    embassy is expected to take 90 days, a window that would give
    Washington the opportunity to reassess the decision, said a diplomat
    familiar with the situation.

    An Iraqi official said the U.S. government asked for stronger action
    against militias, suggesting that a shutdown could be averted if that

    A spokeswoman for the State Department declined to comment on Pompeo's
    "private diplomatic conversations with foreign leaders" but underscored
    U.S. frustrations with "Iran-backed groups launching rockets at our

    She said such attacks "are a danger not only to us but to the
    Government of Iraq, neighboring diplomatic missions, and residents of
    the former International Zone and surrounding areas."

    President Trump's decision to order the killing of senior Iranian
    commander Qasem Soleimani outside the Baghdad airport in January
    sparked a firestorm in Iraq. Iraqi lawmakers urged the expulsion of
    U.S. troops. Iranian-backed militia groups ramped up a campaign of
    rocket and small-scale bomb attacks on the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi
    military bases that host U.S.-led coalition troops.

    Two U.S. servicemen, a Briton and several members of Iraq's security
    forces have been killed this year in rocket attacks attributed to the
    militias. In recent months, small-scale bomb attacks have also targeted
    convoys linked to the U.S.-led coalition. Iraqi drivers are the focus,
    which has sown fear among their ranks. A bomb was planted next to a
    convoy from the British Embassy in Baghdad this month, suggesting a
    possible new phase in the militias' campaign.

    Seventeen years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the U.S. Embassy
    in Baghdad has grown to become one of America's largest diplomatic
    outposts. It was unclear Sunday whether the decision to pull out might
    still be reversed if Kadhimi's government is able to better protect
    Western diplomatic and military personnel.

    His challenges are steep, and Iraqi officials say that the prime
    minister has little backing. Kadhimi has tried to crack down on the
    militias by targeting their funding sources and restructuring Iraq's
    security apparatus to put trusted allies at the top. The militias have
    responded by increasing their attacks on diplomatic missions.

    Iraqi security officials also attribute the assassination of a member
    of Kadhimi's inner circle, Hisham al-Hashemi, to an Iranian-backed

    The State Department spokeswoman said "the presence of lawless,
    Iran-backed militias," as the United States attempts to secure
    financial support for Iraq from the international community and the
    private sector, "remains the single biggest deterrent to additional
    investment in Iraq."

    The U.S. decision follows Kadhimi's visit to Washington last month,
    which was described by both sides in glowing terms as a sign of renewed

    A senior official in Kadhimi's office said Sunday that the prime
    minister is lobbying European partners to try to persuade the United
    States to reverse its decision, citing the "negative consequences" that
    it might have on the country's stability.

    Officials from three European embassies in Baghdad said their countries
    would stay even if the United States left.

    The U.S. military leads a coalition that has been battling the Islamic
    State in Iraq and Syria from a Baghdad headquarters since 2014. Defense
    officials said the United States is planning to continue its
    counterinsurgency mission in Iraq for now.

    Gen. Frank McKenzie Jr., who heads U.S. Central Command, said this
    month that the United States would reduce its force level from more
    than 5,000 to about 3,000 by the end of the month.

    Analysts said a U.S. pullout could set Kadhimi back in his fight
    against the militias.

    "The trend here is that the U.S. is withdrawing. If they are not doing
    it now, then they are doing it eventually," said Lahib Higel, a senior
    analyst at the Washington-based International Crisis Group. "These
    groups will reconstitute each other in one way or another; they are a
    part of Iraq's political landscape."

    Pentagon officials say a continued mission is important to ensure that
    the Islamic State does not make a major comeback. The group continues
    to launch small-scale attacks across Iraq.

    The U.S. mission in Iraq also provides a base for ongoing operations in
    Syria. There are fewer than 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria, and many rely
    on the U.S. presence in Iraq for logistics and travel. Iranian-backed
    militias have targeted Iraqi logistics companies servicing U.S.-linked
    military bases in recent months.

    On Sunday, Iraq's military reported another attack. Officials said a
    convoy of trucks driven by Iraqis was targeted in the central province
    of Babil. "We're terrified," said one Iraqi who works with the U.S.
    coalition, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he feared
    being targeted by the militias. "What do they want us to say? That it's
    worth serving the U.S. mission with our lives? They don't even pay us
    very much."

    Kadhimi, who was elected in May, has been locked in a [24]high-stakes
    battle to clamp down on Iranian-backed militias implicated in attacks
    on Western forces. According to two U.S. officials, Pompeo warned
    Iraq's government last week that the United States would close the
    embassy unless Kadhimi restrained them.

    "I don't think that going out with a bang like this is going to help
    Iraq," Higel said.

    Pompeo left Washington for Greece early Sunday for the first leg of a
    three-country trip. He did not speak to reporters accompanying him
    during the 9-hour flight. Cale Brown, the deputy spokesman on the trip
    with him, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

    Ryan and Hudson reported from Washington. Carol Morello in Washington
    and Mustafa Salim in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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