The US said it will withdraw troops from Iraq in the coming months, six months after the assassination of an Iranian general in Baghdad threatened to see them expelled from the country. The announcement comes amid a spike of Islamic State activity in the country, and as Baghdad and Washington began long-anticipated talks over the future of the presence of the US in the country. A joint statement read: "In light of significant progress towards eliminating the Isis threat, over the coming months the U.S. would continue reducing forces from Iraq.” Relations between the two plummeted to an all-time low this year after the US killed Iranian spy chief Qassim Soleimani in an airstrike near Baghdad airport in January. Iranian-backed militias have since launched repeated rocket attacks on the US Embassy in Baghdad, and on military bases housing US troops. At the time, Iraqi officials were publicly furious, with President Barham Salih, describing the airstrike as a breach of sovereignty. The Iraqi parliament passed a non-binding resolution to expel American troops immediately. Yet, US officials insisted both publicly and privately that they would leave on their timetable, and only when Iraq was capable of handling its own security affairs. US-led efforts against Isil n Syria are heavily reliant on Washington’s presence in Iraq. The October 2019 raid that killed Isil-chief Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi was conducted by forces flown in from bases in Iraq. The withdrawal announcement comes as attacks by Isil surge in the country. A recent study by the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point notes that Isil claimed 566 attacks in Iraq in the first quarter of 2020 – a notable increase on previous months. The study described Isil as showing “very significant resilience”, adding that “the movement has undertaken an agile, fluid, and pragmatic shift back to insurgency in every area of Iraq where the group has lost physical control of populations and resources.” At 5,200, the current contingent of US troops in Iraq is already considerably reduced compared to the peak in 2007, when numbers topped 160,000 under President George W. Bush. The Trump administration has attempted to balance its desire to bring as many troops as possible home before the presidential election later this year, and a “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran – Iraq is seen as a key battleground in the rivalry. Though no exact figures were given, western officials believe the reduction will halve the number of US troops remaining in Iraq, with further reductions possible before the end of the year.
Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad buried its former leader Ramadan Shalah in Syria Sunday, an AFP correspondent said, a day after he died in neighbouring Lebanon. The 62-year-old died in a Beirut hospital before his body was transported across the border to Syria, a Palestinian source said. Shalah led Iran-backed Islamic Jihad from 1995 until 2018 when he was replaced by his deputy Ziad al-Nakhala.$200 Visa Gift Card (plus $6.95 Purchase Fee)
Rep. Nancy Pelosi is once again questioning President Trump’s judgment on the Iran crisis after his open support for a doctored image of her and Sen. Chuck Schumer with the Iranian flag. We got the Speaker of the House Monday leaving Washington…-