ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The Iraqi government will have no choice but to “obey” legislation from the parliament, but can still have its opinion concerning the US presence in Iraq, announced Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi.
Within the framework of US-Iraqi-coalition cooperation Abdul-Mahdi explained during his press conference on Tuesday that he sees no mission besides training Iraqi forces and assisting in the ISIS fight.
He added that his meeting in Baghdad on Tuesday with US acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan was “good and fruitful.”
They will “respect” and “obey” whatever decision the Iraqi parliament makes about the US troop presence.
However, he insisted that the government can still have an opinion on the matter.
“Thus, what is being said in the press shouldn’t be taken as the final truth,” Abdul-Mahdi added.
US President Donald Trump has floated the idea of using bases in Iraq to watch Iran. Iraqi politicians quickly called the move unconstitutional and repeated that they do not want the country to be used as a battlefield between the United States or regional Arab countries and Iran.
The PM’s remarks come at a potentially pivotal moment. Shiite parties allied with Iran insist that they will introduce legislation to the parliament when its recess ends to force US troops out of the country.
The majority of Shiite parties, including Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sayirun Alliance and Hadi al-Amiri’s Iran-linked Fatih have all rejected a US presence — many even before previous PM Haider al-Abadi declared the defeat of ISIS in December 2017.
The Sunnis and Kurds, however, have been more silent, but they generally agree that the US presence is needed in order to prevent pre-2014 conditions from returning and to continue efforts to train and professionalize Iraqi security apparatus. For Sunnis and Kurds, it is also a counterbalance to Shiite and Iranian hegemony in Iraq.
Abdul-Mahdi added they are “following” the battles against ISIS across Syria. And Iraq has set up “proactive” plans to protect its borders from any possible ISIS movements.
“The other side, the Syrian Democratic Forces, have large a number of Iraqi Daesh members. We will have repatriation actions for them,” the PM added, referring to ISIS suspects in SDF custody.
ISIS fighters remain in a 2 square-kilometer pocket in the border town of Baghouz, Syria. According to SDF’s spokesperson Mustafa Bali, the most “experienced” ISIS foreign fighters are there.
Logistical preparations are underway for the families of Iraqi members of ISIS to be relocated, Abdul-Mahdi added.
“Thus, we are getting prepared for everything. There are good military and security preparations,” added the PM.
Relations between the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) are “good,” according to Abdul-Mahdi. Reports of the Peshmerga returning to Kirkuk and other areas are “clamor with no basis,” he said.
“Things remain as they are. Actually, we have even bolstered the economic conditions in Kirkuk. We are closing any gaps that terror could exploit,” the premier added.
Last week there were sub-committees formed between the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and KRG Ministry of Peshmerga for cooperation, joint patrols, joint administration, and joint operation rooms in the disputed territories that could see the return of Peshmerga forces.
As for the oil export agreement with KRG, he added that there is an agreed upon “mechanism” and he reiterated KRG has to handover 250,000 bpd to SOMO.
Iraqi water improves in quantity and quality
“We pay great attention to water pollution,” said the Iraqi PM. Five million cubic-meters of waste water runs into the Tigris.
He further added that the waste water has settled at the bottom of Diyala’s river. Because of recent flash flooding, the water has made its way into the desalination plants.
“The desalination plants became unhealthy. We had to stop distributing this water,” added the PM, saying they have resorted to water wells.
Still, he called the rain this year a “blessing” saying the water reserves of Iraq are being replenished and filled with this amount of rain water.
He also struck an optimistic view of agricultural yields. Baghdad expects them to increase this year due to a strong rainy season.
“In addition, the abundance of rain helped in elevating the quality of water,” claimed the PM, citing weekly water reports.
He also added that they estimate there are “5 billion cubic-meters” of water from the accumulated snow that will eventually melt. Thus Iraq might receive up to 30 billion cubic meters of water in total.
Iraq’s water problems sent thousands of Iraqis in Basra to hospitals last summer. It led to widespread protests which dashed the hopes of the former Iraqi PM’s reelection.
Turkey’s mega dam projects, and droughts, have all negatively impacted Iraq’s water reserves and the decreased water levels in the Euphrates and Tigris have damaged Iraqi agriculture.