Iraqi PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi delivers his weekly press conference to reporters in the capital of Baghdad on January 5, 2019. Photo: Iraqi PMO
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region —Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi rejected the possibility of the United States keeping troops in the country to watch Iran because they don’t want it become another battlefield. The premier also hailed cooperation between Peshmerga and Iraqi forces.
“There are no American military bases in Iraq. We have said that more than once. There is no SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) between the United States of America and Iraq as mentioned by some media outlets,” Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi said in his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
Besides the global coalition’s forces training Iraqis, there are no forces in Iraq with a different mission, he added.
“That is why, when it is said that the mission of these forces is to fight a neighboring country, like Iran for example, we reject that notion. The constitution itself prevents us from such approaches,” he added.
Abdul-Mahdi and the new government have repeatedly said they do not want Iraq to get caught up in the regional power struggle between Arab states and Iran.
“We don’t accept Iraq being the battlefield of a side waging a war against someone,” said Abdul-Mahdi.
The legislature has the final say in foreign force approvals.
“Whatever the parliament decides, we will apply [it], and we will go forward. But I don’t think there is an official request,” Abdul-Mahdi said of the rumors of a parliamentary motion by the Sayirun alliance to force foreign troops to leave.
The matter will be “administered” constitutionally, added the Iraqi PM.
“We tell all our friends, whether to our friends in Iran or the American side, that Iraq is a country that has friendly relations with everyone,” asserted the PM.
Pivoting to domestic forces, Abdul-Mahdi dismissed that negotiations are underway between the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Ministry of Peshmerga.
“Agreements are between countries, not within one country. Peshmerga today are an important part of the security setting and military forces,” said Abdul-Mahdi.
The Peshmerga are constitutionally enshrined as a force within the Iraqi Security Forces.
“Today, there is frankly unprecedented cooperation between Iraqi military forces and Peshmerga. There is cooperation,” added the Iraqi PM.
Without cooperation between Peshmerga, Hashd, the Iraqi Army, other units, and the global coalition, there couldn’t have been success in the war against ISIS, he added.
This week, there was a meeting between the Peshmerga ministry and Iraq’s defense ministry over joint work and security in the disputed territories.
This could potentially lead to the return of Peshmerga forces to the disputed in coordination with the Iraqi forces.
Five sub-committees — for east and west Nineveh, Saladin, Kirkuk and Diyala — will begin meeting in the next week to discuss coordination.