US Refuses to Discuss Withdrawing Troops From Iraq

Iraq asks US to devise a mechanism for being asked to leave

Last Sunday, the Iraqi parliament voted 170-0 to order the government to expel US and other foreign troops from Iraqi soil. Getting to the goal from the vote is easier said than done, with the State Department warning Iraq that they are not at all willing to discuss troop withdrawals.

US officials have said they have no intention of leaving Iraq, but they’re skirting the legal reality of the situation by saying they’ve yet to get a formal request from Iraq to leave. How long they can maintain that pretense by simply telling Iraq not to talk about it remains to be seen.

Iraq is already looking for holes in this fairly transparent attempt to avoid discussion, with Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi asking Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to devise some sort of mechanism whereby Iraq could actually request the US to leave.

The State Department has refused to comment on that request, and Mahdi’s further request for a US delegation to talk with about it was met with the US warning that any delegation they send would not be willing to talk about it.

Clearly, this is not a long-term solution, as Iraq has plainly been moving to expel US forces, and the administration simply can’t pretend they never heard about it. This is going to be treated the same as refusing the order to leave, which is what President Trump seemed to be suggesting they were going to do anyhow.

In addition to saying he didn’t intend to leave Iraq, President Trump also threatened Iraq earlier in the week with massive sanctions for even requesting the pullout. Since the US presence in Iraq was supposed to be based on Iraq’s request, the withdrawal of that request is going to remain a substantial legal problem.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.