BAGHDAD (Press TV) – The U.S. military has offered senior Iraqi security officials plans for a partial withdrawal of troops from Iraq, reneging on an earlier promise to leave the Arab country, online news website Middle East Eye (MEE) reports.
It cited unnamed sources as saying that a meeting was held in great secrecy between the two sides in the private residence of the Canadian ambassador to Jordan in Amman last week.
A representative of the U.S. military told the Iraqis that Washington was prepared to leave positions in or near Shia-majority areas, such as Balad airbase which houses U.S. personnel about 80 kilometers north of Baghdad.
The Iraqis were told that Washington could even consider reducing its troops in the capital Baghdad, the report said.
However, the U.S. side categorically dismissed withdrawing from Ain al-Asad, the biggest U.S. airbase in Anbar province.
"We cannot even start talking about withdrawing [from Ain al-Asad]. Withdrawal is out of the question,” the U.S. representative said.
Ain al-Asad airbase came under missile fire from Iran last month, in response to the U.S. assassination of top Iranian commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis at Baghdad international airport on January 3.
About 5,300 American forces are deployed across Iraq. Two days after the assassination, the Iraqi parliament approved a motion, calling for the withdrawal of all American forces.
Later on January 9, former Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called on the United States to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad tasked with formulating a mechanism for the move.
According to a statement released by the Iraqi premier’s office, Abdul-Mahdi "requested that delegates be sent to Iraq to set the mechanisms to implement the parliament’s decision for the secure withdrawal of (foreign) forces from Iraq” in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
He said that Iraq rejected violation of its sovereignty, particularly the US military’s violation of Iraqi airspace in the assassination. The US State Department bluntly rejected the request the following day.
Angered by the Iraqi parliament’s vote on January 5, U.S. President Donald Trump threatened the Iraqis with "sanctions like they’ve never seen before” if American troops were asked to leave.