Crowds swarm Tehran to mourn slain Iran military leader Soleimani
US officials tried to convince Iraqi leaders to prevent Sunday's parliamentary vote to expel American troops from the country, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.
US officials claimed it would be harmful for Iraq to follow through on such a move and hold the vote at all -- but ultimately the argument fell flat.
"The mood in the country was pushing for it," one source familiar with the discussions said of the vote. "This was not something that could have been avoided."
Axios was first to report the push by US officials.
What the vote means: It is too soon to know if the expulsion vote will come to fruition, due to the legal and procedural steps that would be necessary, the sources said. Iraq's council of ministers will this week have a meeting on the topic, where they will begin to determine the way forward, one of the sources explained.
During a flight from Florida to Washington on Air Force One, President Donald Trump spoke with reporters about the increasing tensions with Iran.
He reiterated his threat to target Iranian cultural sites.
They’re allowed to kill our people, they’re allowed to torture and maim our people, they’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people, and we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way,” Trump said, according to a pool report.
Asked about the prospects of retaliation from Iran after the death of Qasem Soleimani, Trump said “If it happens it happens.”
Trump also threatened sanctions against Iraq should US troops be expelled from the country. The Iraqi Parliament voted Sunday to obligate Iraq's government "to work towards ending the presence of all foreign troops on Iraqi soil."
“If they do ask us to leave, if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis. We will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever,” Trump said.
Trump said the costs of maintaining an American troop presence in the country over the past years should be repaid by Iraq if the country chooses to rescind an agreement allowing them to stay.
“We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that’s there. It cost billions of dollars to build. Long before my time. We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it,” Trump said.
Lastly, Trump said he would not rule out releasing some of the intelligence that led to the US killing Soleimani.
Zainab Qasem Soleimani, daughter of Qasem Soleimani, spoke with Lebanese television station al-Manar TV on Sunday, saying President Trump needs to know "his crime will never wipe out the remembrance of my father.” She added that “his martyrdom inspired rebirth in our souls.”
“You could not match my father, so you targeted him with missiles. Had you been so, you would have confronted him face-to-face,” she said.
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a joint statement Sunday calling on all parties to “exercise utmost restraint” and saying there is “an urgent need for de-escalation" concerning rising tensions with Iran after the death of Qasem Soleimani.
We specifically call on Iran to refrain from further violent action or proliferation, and urge Iran to reverse all measures inconsistent with the (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). We recall our attachment to the sovereignty and security of Iraq. Another crisis risks jeopardizing years of efforts to stabilize Iraq,” the statement read.
The three leaders also said they condemned the attacks on coalition forces in Iraq and are "gravely concerned by the negative role Iran has played in the region" under the command of Soleimani. They urged Iraqi officials to continue providing "all the necessary support" to the coalition forces.
"The current cycle of violence in Iraq must be stopped," the statement read.
Kata'ib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed paramilitary group of the Popular Mobilization Forces, said in a statement Sunday they supported the resolution by the Iraqi Parliament to remove foreign forces from the country.
"What was achieved was a great victory, considered a first step in the process of liberating Iraq and purifying it from the filth of enemies, and must be followed by other important steps," the statement read.
The group said closing of "the US Embassy of Evil" and adopting the resolution are priorities for the government.
Kata'ib Hezbollah praised the parliament members who attended and voted in Sunday’s emergency session.
"While we commend those who voted in favor of the resolution, we value the courageous stance of Mr. Adel Abdel Mahdi, and the speaker of the House of representatives, and we blame those who missed the voting session, placing themselves on the record of shame and disgrace," the statement read.
Iraqi officials are preparing a memorandum for the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi told French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in a phone conversation Sunday.
Iraqi officials in various government departments are preparing a memorandum outlining the legal and procedural steps required to implement the resolution of the Parliament regarding the withdrawal of foreign forces,” a statement from the Prime Minister's office read.
The Iraqi Parliament voted Sunday to obligate Iraq's government "to work towards ending the presence of all foreign troops on Iraqi soil," according to the media office of the Iraqi Parliament.
King Abdullah II of Jordan and Iraqi President Barham Salih spoke by phone Sunday. The King emphasized the need to de-escalate tensions in Iraq and the region.
The King urged all parties to exercise restraint and reiterated Jordan's support for Iraq's security, sovereignty and stability, according to a statement by the media office of the Iraqi President.
“Iraq seeks to be a point of cooperation and inclusion rather than to be a battleground to settle scores for all regional and international states,” Salih told the monarch.
The bodies of Gen. Qasem Soleimani and his companions arrived in Tehran, Iran, early Monday to massive crowds. according to Iran's Press TV.
Soleimani was killed in a US airstrike Friday, increasing tensions between Iran and the United States.
French President Emmanuel Macron called US President Donald Trump on Sunday, emphasizing his solidarity with French allies in the wake of "the recent increase in tensions in Iraq and in the region," he said in a statement.
Macron indicated that the American and French priority should be the pursuit of action against ISIS within the framework of the international coalition and with “full respect for the sovereignty of Iraq.”
Macron expressed concern about the destabilizing activities of the Quds Force, which was led by Qasem Soleimani, and reiterated the need for Iran to put an end to such activities. Macron also urged Iran to refrain from any military escalation likely to aggravate regional instability.