According to a report from Middle East Eye, a group of Iraqi militias has agreed not to attack the US if Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi formally demands a US withdrawal from the country.
The report described the militias that agreed not to attack US bases as “Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitaries,” which likely means the Shia militias that fall under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a group that formed in 2014 to fight ISIS.
Sources told Middle East Eye that Kadhimi must ask the US to leave within 12 months and that he is likely to make this demand. A group of militia commanders known as the Coordinating Committee for the Resistance Factions reached the agreement with Iraq’s government.
According to the sources, the deal stipulates that Kadhimi must submit a letter to the UN Security Council asking the US-led anti-ISIS mission to end. The agreement is similar to one reached last October when the militias agreed to stop attacking the US if Kadhimi can set a timetable for a US withdrawal.
Rocket attacks on US bases in Iraq stepped up in 2020 after the US assassinated Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani and PMF leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad. The assassinations caused Iraq’s parliament to vote to expel US forces. Washington did not oblige, but the Trump administration did bring troop numbers down to 2,500.
The ceasefire that was reached last October largely held, although there were a few incidents, like last month’s rocket attack in Erbil that killed a US contractor. The US responded to the Erbil attack and other incidents by bombing PMF targets in eastern Syria, specifically targeting Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada.
Iraqi Shia sources told Middle East Eye in a February report that their groups had nothing to do with the Erbil attack, and Kataib Hezbollah had strongly denied any role. The report said Iran feared that Kataib Hezbollah would retaliate and further escalate tensions, a sign that these Shia groups are not as controlled by Iran as the US claims.
On March 3rd, a rocket attack hit the Al Asad US military base in western Iraq, which could have been retaliation for Biden’s Syria bombing, although it is not clear who was responsible. The US has threatened a military strike over the Al Asad attack but so far has not taken action.