Iraq PM reveals reason why Soleimani was in Baghdad before death

BAGHDAD/LONDON: Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi on Sunday said that the late Iranian commander, Qasem Soleimani, had travelled to Baghdad to reach a diplomatic agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran and to ‘discuss de-escalating tensions’between the two countries.
According to the Washington Post and UK’s Daily Mail, Iraq was part of a bid to tone the tensions between the Kingdom and the Islamic Republic. Abdul-Mahdi added as per the publication that he was expecting a meeting with Soleimani the day the commander was killed in a US-sanctioned airstrike.
“He came to deliver me a message from Iran, responding to the message we delivered from Saudi Arabia to Iran,” the Iraqi prime minister said, according to Washington Post.
“What happened was a political assassination,” Abdul Mahdi added. He noted that Trump had asked him to intervene and arbitrate a discussion with Iran after protests outside the US embassy in Baghdad.
Soleimani, as well as Iraqi paramilitary force Hashed al-Shaabi’s deputy chief, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, were killed in an airstrike near Baghdad International Airport, ratcheting up tensions between the US and Iran, the former of which had pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal in a sudden move.
Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia, had held the country responsible for a September attack on the Kingdom’s oil plants that had significantly impact the world supply.
On Sunday, Iraq’s parliament had called on for the US and other foreign military forces to leave amid a growing backlash against Soleimani’s killing that heightened fears of a wider Middle East conflict.
It had passed a resolution calling on the government to work to end all foreign troop presence, reflecting the concern of many in Iraq that the strike could engulf them in a major war between two bigger powers long at odds in Iraq and across the region.
“The Iraqi government must work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, air space or water for any reason,” it had said.
While parliamentary resolutions, unlike laws, are non-binding, this one was likely to be heeded as Abdul-Mahdi had earlier called on parliament to end foreign troop presence as soon as possible.
In a war of words between Iran and the US, State Secretary Mike Pompeo had said Washington would target any Iranian decision-makers it chose if there were further attacks on Washington’s interests by Tehran’s forces or their proxies.
On the other hand, the European Union (EU), the United Kingdom, and Oman had urged them to make diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis.–TN

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