Iraqi PM wants German forces to stay, says Berlin
BERLIN – Iraqi caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi wants German forces to remain in Iraq, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday, despite a parliamentary resolution in Baghdad calling for foreign powers to leave the country.
The Iraqi parliament voted in favour of expelling coalition forces earlier this month after the US drone strike which killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad and sparked fresh tensions in the region.
“The prime minister told us that Baghdad has a significant interest in the continuation of international engagement against Islamic State, and spoke in favour of the German army remaining,” Maas told MPs in Germany’s Bundestag.
The foreign minister added that there was “no getting past” the parliamentary resolution, but said it was important to “consolidate achievements” in the fight against ISIS.
“We have always said that we respect the sovereignty of Iraq and will accept any decision taken there,” he said.
“But we are arguing that we should continue our support…any other course of action would contribute to instability in Iraq.”
Maas said that ISIS still posed “a real danger to the security of Iraq and the whole region”.
Germany has deployed about 415 soldiers as part of the anti-ISIS coalition, with about 120 of its troops stationed in Iraq.
Germany withdrew 32 of its soldiers from a camp near Baghdad, though it later insisted that this was not a response to the resolution.
Last Friday, Mahdi asked the US to begin negotiations to withdraw its 5,200 troops from Iraq.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later said that Iraqi leaders did not really want the US to pull out.
“They won’t say so publicly. But privately they all welcome the fact that America is still there executing its counter terror campaign,” Pompeo said in response to a question at a forum at Stanford University.