September 27, 2020
US soldiers in Kirkuk, Iraq on 29 March 2020 [Murtadha Al-Sudani/Anadolu Agency]
March 12, 2021 at 12:46 pm
Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary groups have agreed to stop attacking US targets if Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Khadimi formally demands the full withdrawal of American forces, Middle East Eye (MEE) reports.
The de-escalation agreement is conditional on Al-Khadimi demanding the complete withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, to be completed within 12 months.
The Iraqi PM must send a letter to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) requesting the US-led coalition’s mission in Iraq come to an end, according to the agreement.
Sources cited by the English-language site said they expected the Iraqi prime minister to comply with the agreement.
It was reportedly brokered after meetings in Baghdad, Beirut and Tehran, between the Iraqi government and a group of commanders known as the Coordinating Committee for the Resistance Factions.
Talks to achieve an agreement were mediated by Iranian and Lebanese parties, as well as an international organisation operating in Iraq.
One of the Iraqi negotiators confirmed to MEE that all the parties had agreed to the de-escalation and that attacks which break the agreement would be “a personal act” and that the culprit would be “considered outside the consensus”.
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A previous de-escalation agreement was brokered in October and largely held, despite a few violations, until armed factions announced it had ended on 1 March.
Earlier this month, back and forth attacks between US forces and paramilitaries led to a raid on Ain Al-Assad military base, which houses US-led coalition troops.
A series of ten rockets from a launcher five miles away hit the air base in western Iraq at 7:20am local time on 3 March.
A US contractor later died after suffering a heart attack during the raid, the Pentagon announced the next day.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has responded strongly to the rocket attack, saying the US will do what it sees as necessary to defend its interests.
He said: “We’ll strike if that’s what we think we need to do, at a time and place of our own choosing. We demand the right to protect our troops.”
He called on the Iraqi military to investigate the incident and determine who was responsible.
“We would hope that they would choose to do the right things,” he said.