The View From Baghdad

Jan 5, 2020
Originally published on January 5, 2020 11:25 am
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SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

Iraq's parliament has voted to expel U.S. forces from the country. They passed the resolution after the U.S. killed Iran's top security commander and a senior Iraqi official in Baghdad Friday. NPR's Jane Arraf joins us from Baghdad. Hello, Jane.

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Hi, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: So tell us more about what's happening in parliament. Is it possible U.S. forces will be forced to leave?

ARRAF: That actually is a possibility for the first time in more than a decade, really. Parliament met the Iraqi prime minister, the outgoing one. Adil Abdul-Mahdi gave an address in which he thanked U.S. forces for helping Iraq fight ISIS. And then he detailed what he called breaches of sovereignty, which, of course, culminated with a drone strike near the Baghdad airport. And then he recommended that U.S. forces be asked to leave. They took a vote. And the Shia parties carried it. It went down sectarian lines. The vote was boycotted by Kurds and Sunnis for the most part. It isn't binding. It still has to go back to the government. But it's hugely significant, this vote.

MCCAMMON: And, Jane, the U.S. says coalition forces are pausing their fight against ISIS to focus on defending against possible Iranian attacks. How does that affect the fight against ISIS?

ARRAF: It affects it quite a lot. And that's the bigger concern here. It's not just that there won't be U.S. forces here. It will be that this leads to a whole series of things, including affecting the fight against ISIS, which the U.S. continues to play a large role in. And now the U.S. said this was because of repeated rocket attacks over the last two months by elements of the major Iran-backed militia. But in fact, it was only today that they announced that they were what they said - what they described as, pausing anti-ISIS operations and training. The fact that the U.S. is pausing these operations also means that the coalition partners will, as well. So this is very dramatic, as well.

MCCAMMON: And there were funeral services and memorials yesterday in several Iraqi cities for Soleimani and the Iraqis killed along with him. What were those like?

ARRAF: They were very emotional, as you might expect, in Iran, in the town where his body was taken from Iraq after it was taken around to the holy Shiite cities. Hundreds of thousands of people turned out in the streets. He was - he is considered a martyr by many, considered - and despised and reviled by others. But here in Iraq, the reaction was as much opposition to the fact that the U.S. has embroiled Iraq in its fight against Iran as it was sorrow over the fact that he died. And he wasn't the only one. A senior Iraqi official was killed in that strike, as well.

MCCAMMON: NPR's Jane Arraf is in Baghdad. Thanks for speaking with us, Jane.

ARRAF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.