Pompeo: Iraqi leaders privately back counter-terror campaign of US troops

Pompeo added that the US was interested in reducing its footprint in the long-term
Pompeo: Iraqi leaders privately back counter-terror campaign of US troops
Pompeo: Iraqi leaders privately back counter-terror campaign

ITDC INDIA EPRESS/ ITDC NEWS Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alleged Monday that Iraqi leaders have told him privately they support the US troop presence, despite public appeals for them to leave.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, while fielding questions from students at Stanford University in California said a “broad spectrum” of Sunni, Kurdish, and Shi’ite leaders back US counterterrorism efforts in Iraq. He added that they privately support the presence of US troops in the region.

The Iraqi parliament last week voted to expel US troops from the country after the US killed a top Iranian military leader General Qasem Soleimani. Trump said that he would impose heavy sanctions on Iraq if they did dispel forces from the country.

Pompeo said that various conversations with around 50 Iraqi leaders since the start of the month, gave him a different message.

"They won't say so publicly. But privately they all welcome the fact that America is still there executing its counter-terror campaign," Pompeo said.

The US troops are ensuring that the Islamic State extremist group does not re-emerge and "providing an opportunity for the Iraqis to gain the sovereignty and independence that most Iraqis want," Pompeo said.

Pompeo, however, added that the US was interested in reducing their footprint in the longer term. Trump too, has previously said that military deployments are too costly and that he 2003 invasion that ousted dictator Saddam Hussein was a mistake.

Trump had also warned Iraq that the US would block the country's account at the Federal Reserve bank in New York, which could devastate the oil producer's economy.

Pompeo last week rejected a request by Iraq's caretaker prime minister, Adel Abdel Mahdi, to send a delegation to discuss a troop withdrawal.

Hours of forewarning saved the US, Iraqi lives from Iran's missile attack

In the meantime, according to intelligence sources, nearly eight hours before Iran's missiles hit the Ain al-Asad base at Iraq, American and Iraqi soldiers scrambled to move personnel and weaponry to fortified bunkers. An intelligence officer said, by midnight, most personnel had fled to other places and not a single fighter jet or helicopter remained out in the open. When the missiles finally landed at about 1.30 am, they struck empty bunkers that had been evacuated hours before, another intelligence source said.

Aerospace Force, was later quoted in state media saying, they did not intend to kill, but to hit the enemy's military machinery. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that it was 'not enough' of a punishment. Commander of Aerospace Force, a branch of the Revolutionary corps General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said that the attack had killed US soldiers.

An advisor to Iraq Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said that Iraq was not directly notified of the attack and the warning had been passed to them via other countries.  Iran was keen that both the Americans and Iraqis be aware of the strikes before they occurred.

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