Baghdad tells military officials to minimize U.S. reliance

Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Sean Martin

The Iraqi government has told its military not to seek assistance from the U.S.-led coalition in operations against the Islamic State group, two senior Iraqi military officials said, in the latest tensions between Washington and Baghdad after an American strike killed a top Iranian general and Iraqi militia commander.

Officially, the Iraqi military announced Jan. 30 that it and the coalition resumed joint military operations after a three-week halt. The pause was called amid soaring tensions following the Jan. 3 U.S. airstrike ordered by President Donald Trump that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and senior Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

But in practice, Iraqis are seeking to minimize coalition assistance against IS, based on government orders, two Iraqi military officials and one militia official said this week.

“After the killing of Soleimani, the Iraqi government decided to inform us formally not to cooperate and not to seek assistance from the U.S.-led international coalition in any operation,” a senior military intelligence official told The Associated Press.

The U.S.-led coalition paused its mission to fight IS in Iraq on Jan. 5 in the wake of the strike. That same day Shiite lawmakers, irate by what they called a flagrant violation of sovereignty, pushed a non-binding resolution requesting that the government cancel legal agreements that provide the basis for U.S. troop presence in the country.

Some 5,200 U.S. soldiers are stationed in Iraqi bases to support local troops fighting IS. They are part of a larger international coalition invited by the Iraqi government in 2014.

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