Adil Abdul-Mahdi may be on his way out as Iraqi’s prime minister, but he might try to engineer an exit for the US on his own way out the door. The furious PM declared the killing of Qassem Soleimani and Iran-backed Iraqi military commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis “a massive breach of sovereignty,” and warned it would “light the fuse of war.” Abdul-Mahdi called on the Iraqi parliament to take punitive action against the US:
“The assassination of an Iraqi military commander who holds an official position is considered aggression on Iraq … and the liquidation of leading Iraqi figures or those from a brotherly country on Iraqi soil is a massive breach of sovereignty,” Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi said. …
The prime minister said the US strike violated terms of the US military presence in Iraq, adding that US troops were exclusively in Iraq to train Iraqi security forces and fight Islamic State within the framework of a global coalition.
Abdul-Mahdi called on parliament to convene an extraordinary session to “take legislative steps and necessary provisions to safeguard Iraq’s dignity, security, and sovereignty.”
He did not specify what those provisions would entail, but some officials and parliamentarians have called for steps to expel US troops from Iraq.
The assembly already planned a session for tomorrow to deal with the crisis, and voiding the military agreement is at least on the agenda:
Hassan al-Kaabi said it was time to put an end to “US recklessness and arrogance,” adding that Saturday’s session will be dedicated to taking “decisive decisions that put an end to the US presence inside Iraq.”
If Donald Trump really does want the US out of this theater of operations, he might not have planned it any better than this. The US can’t impose itself on an Iraq that is nominally run on a democratic system of self-determination, even if it is actually more of an Iranian satellite these days. That itself was a consequence of the abrupt 2011 pullout of forces that allowed the Shi’ite majority to lock out the Sunnis, which gave rise to ISIS, but even that was a consequence of taking out Saddam Hussein in 2003. Hussein was also a bad actor who wanted to strike Israel off the face of the map and wanted to eventually take over Saudi Arabia and Jordan as well. And even all of this is just the latest iteration of a millennium-plus war between Sunnis and Shi’a, Arabs and Persians, that has produced monsters like Hussein and Soleimani.
The only thing left for everyone else to consider is their own national interests. Without a doubt, the State Department will be reminding Iraqi officials about that as well, along with the fact that the next people to step up in dealing with Iranian expansionism will be the Saudis and other Sunnis. The US can bug out, but what follows us is likely to be a lot less dainty about people like Soleimani, especially when the Iraqis themselves were allowing him to operate freely and align themselves with him, even when Soleimani was attacking US interests. A full-on marriage with Tehran is not a tenable long-term solution, especially when the mullahs themselves are dealing with a restive population — and have just lost the man who kept the lid on it for the last few decades.
At any rate, the Trump administration has already started advising American civilians to get out of Iraq in any way they can — like right now:
#Iraq: Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, we urge U.S. citizens to depart Iraq immediately. Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound, all consular operations are suspended. U.S. citizens should not approach the Embassy. pic.twitter.com/rdRce3Qr4a
— Travel – State Dept (@TravelGov) January 3, 2020
Once they go, it will be difficult to get them and their capital to return to Iraq. That’s something that the Iraqi parliament will also have to consider tomorrow, along with just how much they want to resign themselves to being commanded by Soleimani’s eventual replacement. The US might not be an attractive alternative, given the last thirty years, but it’s got to be better than that.