- The Washington Times - Friday, January 3, 2020

The U.S. strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and a leading Iraqi Shiite militia leader has been condemned by officials across the Iraqi political spectrum and could put the future of some 5,000 U.S. troop stationed in Iraq in doubt.

The attack, which occurred Thursday just after Soleimani had landed at Baghdad’s airport, comes just days after a Shiite militia group had besieged the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to protest a previous U.S. airstrike at a militia base near the Iraq-Syria border.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Friday morning cited video footage of a demonstration in central Baghdad celebrating the death of Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, but analysts say the attacks will almost certainly fuel a backlash inside Iraq against the U.S. presence.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called the strike — which apparently came as a surprise to leaders in Baghdad — as a violation of Iraq’s sovereign rights that could “spark a devastating war.”

“The assassination of an Iraqi military commander is an aggression on Iraq as a state, government and people,” Mr. Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite politician who is stepping down soon, said in a statement.

“Carrying out physical liquidation operations against leading Iraqi figures or from a brotherly country on the Iraqi lands is a flagrant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and a dangerous escalation that triggers a destructive war in Iraq, the region and the world,” he said.

Iraqi President Barham Salih, a Kurd, and parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, the country’s top Sunni Muslim politician, strongly condemned the attack and said Iraq was determined not to be dragged into a fight between Tehran and Washington

Iraq must avoid becoming a battlefield or a side in any regional or international conflict,” Mr. al-Halbousi said.

Americans working for oil companies inside Iraq were preparing to leave in anticipation of a possible backlash, Iraq’s oil ministry said in a statement.

But left unaddressed was the fate of a major U.S. base inside Iraq that the Pentagon has said is critical to the fight against Islamic State and the prevention of its resurgence in both Iraq and Syria. President Trump has also said the U.S. deployment was important as a way to “watch” Iran across the border.

It was an attack on the base last week by Iraqi militia forces that set in motion the sequence of events that led to the strike against Soleimani, and leading Shiite politicians said the assassination was further proof that the Americans should leave.

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