Iraq threatens to expel US troops after strike in Baghdad

Iraq on Thursday condemned the U.S. for the latest strike on Iraqi soil and said the military aggression is pushing Baghdad closer to kicking American troops out of the country.

Yahya Rasool, the spokesperson for Iraq’s commander-in-chief, blasted the U.S. for what he said was a “blatant assassination” of an Iranian-backed militia leader “in the heart of a residential neighborhood” in Baghdad.

Rasool said the U.S. has shown “no regard for civilian lives or international laws.”

“By this act, the American forces jeopardize civil peace, violate Iraqi sovereignty, and disregard the safety and lives of our citizens,” Rasool said in a statement.

The U.S. carried out a strike on Wednesday night local time that killed a senior Iranian-backed militia commander, along with two other officials. A commander with Iranian proxy Kata’ib Hezbollah was allegedly part of planning operations in a late January attack that killed three American troops at a base in Jordan.

The U.S. has battled Iranian-backed militia groups since October, and American troops have come under attack more than 160 times in Iraq, Syria and Jordan. There have also been more than 30 attacks in the Red Sea on U.S. troops and merchant shipping from the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen.

Repeated U.S. strikes, including one last week striking more than 85 targets in Iraq and Syria in response to the deaths at the Jordan base, have failed to deter any of the Iranian proxies from continuing their attacks, which the groups say is in response to American support for the Israeli war in Gaza.

But the fighting has strained relations with Baghdad, which hosts some 2,500 American troops in the effort against the Islamic extremist group ISIS.

Iraq fears being dragged back into war and also considers U.S. strikes against its militia groups a security threat. Many Iranian-backed militias serve under the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella group that is an official part of Iraqi security. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani is also closely aligned with those groups.

Last month, Iraq and the U.S. began discussions about the future of the fight against ISIS and the role of American troops in the country, a bilateral dialogue that was slated to begin before the fighting with Iranian-backed groups. But the ongoing tensions with Iranian proxies is expected to be a major part of the discussions.

Rasool, the Iraqi spokesperson, laid out a more forceful line on Thursday, saying the government is getting closer to kicking the U.S. out. He said what was “even more concerning is that the coalition consistently deviates from the reasons and objectives for its presence on our territory.”

“This trajectory compels the Iraqi government more than ever to terminate the mission of this coalition,” Rasool said, “which has become a factor for instability and threatens to entangle Iraq in the cycle of conflict.”

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