One is hearing two dangerous statements about foreign military presence in Iraq being made at the same time. Mohamed al-Halbousi, speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, spoke to the newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat during his current visit to the United States. Barham Salih, Iraq’s second president, spoke to the Associated Press on the occasion of the 30th Arab summit conference held in Tunisia.
Al-Halbousi said that certain Iraqi parliamentary blocs have permanently withdrawn their proposals calling for the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The presence of the U.S. military has been agreed upon among the three executive leaders of Iraq* and all of the political blocs and parties, and the demand to withdraw the coalition forces led by America at this stage would benefit the terrorists’ cause. At the same time, Salih told the Associated Press that he doesn’t see any real opposition to having U.S. forces in Iraq, as long as they remain specifically to fight the Islamic State.
The president and speaker’s remarks came at the wrong time and in the wrong place, especially those of Speaker al-Halbousi, who spoke from Washington, D.C. His remarks have given the global community the impression that calls for the departure of foreign troops from Iraq do not represent the official position of the Iraqi government or of the majority of the parliamentary blocs in the Iraqi Council of Representatives. His remarks have also left the impression that these claims do not infringe on the desires of certain political blocs that represent Iranian agendas in Iraq.
The reality is that al-Halbousi needs to clarify his position with respect to a foreign military presence in Iraq. Who are the blocs that withdrew their proposed law on the foreign military presence in Iraq? And how did al-Halbousi determine that the demand to withdraw foreign troops from Iraq at this stage would benefit the terrorists’ cause? Did Iraq’s three executive leaders really agree on the need for the survival of foreign forces in Iraq? These are questions that the Iraqi people are asking. They want to know whether the masses of Fatah members** and others have really reneged on their demands that all foreign troops leave Iraq. Can al-Halbousi tell the Iraqi public at which stage in the war with the Islamic State the international coalition forces played a role in liberating even one meter of land that was under Islamic State group control? And how does it benefit Iraq and the survival of its people to have American bases and American forces, which have become a serious threat to Iraq's sovereignty, security and politics? And what guarantee or political protection does the U.S. military presence in Iraq provide?
Does al-Halbousi know that the goal of the U.S. military presence in Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terror, and that the excuses that are being made to American military experts about the need for Iraqi armed forces is merely a lie meant to justify the presence of these forces in Iraq? Did al-Halbousi forget what Donald Trump said during his visit to Ain al-Assad airbase on Christmas Eve, that the purpose of the U.S. military presence in Iraq is to monitor Iran and to use U.S. bases in Iraq to attack Iran if needed?
Who benefits from portraying the U.S. military presence in Iraq as protection and as a means to to achieve security and reduce the threat of terrorism in Iraq? Does al-Halbousi know that the greatest danger to the security of Iraq, the region, Iraq's political decision-making and its sovereignty is a foreign military presence on Iraqi territory? How can we still demand that this military presence continue? And what authority authorized the Iraqi Council of Representatives speaker to make these dangerous statements? Finally, can the Iraqi Council of Representatives question al-Halbousi about these serious statements affecting the security and sovereignty of Iraq? In conclusion, I say to the speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, our brave Iraqi armed forces and mobilized popular struggle will guarantee Iraq’s security and sovereignty.
*Editor’s note: The author is understood to be referring to the president of the Republic of Iraq, the prime minister and the speaker of the Council of Representatives.
**Editor’s note: Fatah refers to a Palestinian political party.