President Donald Trump and his Iraqi counterpart Barham Saleh agreed on Wednesday on the need for a continued US military role in the country, the White House said.
In Davos, Switzerland, the two presidents held their first meeting since the United States killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad, sparking an Iraqi parliament call for expulsion of US troops.
“The two leaders agreed on the importance of continuing the United States-Iraq economic and security partnership, including the fight against ISIS,” the White House said.
“President Trump reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering commitment to a sovereign, stable, and prosperous Iraq.”
Tensions between Washington and Tehran boiled over onto Iraqi soil this month, with the US killing top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad and Iran striking back at an Iraqi base hosting American soldiers.
Furious at the US hit, Iraq’s parliament voted January 5 to oust all foreign troops, including some 5,200 American soldiers deployed alongside local forces.
A source from Saleh’s office told AFP he had discussed with Trump the US drone strike as well as the withdrawal of forces.
Trump told Saleh that he “does not want to stay in Iraq”, the source said, and would draw down forces in an “unprecedented way”.
Saleh told world leaders in Davos the parliamentary vote was “not a sign of ingratitude or hostility”, but a response to a violation of his country’s sovereignty.
“It is not in our interest to choose to ally with one side at the expense of others, as long as both respect our sovereignty and independence.”
He added that “no country should seek to dictate to Iraq” the nature of its relationships.
Meanwhile, an Iraqi demonstrator was shot dead in the southern city of Basra overnight, a security source and the human rights commission said yesterday, the latest in a string of protester deaths.
The anti-government demonstrations rocking the Iraqi capital and the Shia-majority south since October had abated in recent weeks amid spiralling tensions between Iraq’s key allies, the United States and Iran.
To recapture momentum and boost pressure on authorities, protesters this week began shutting down roads across the country -- but violence against them has escalated, too.
The young demonstrator was shot dead by unidentified assailants after he left the main protest camp in Basra, a security source said.
He had no papers on his person and police were waiting for someone to identify the body, the source told AFP.