Iraq is considering a larger role for NATO at the expense of the US-led coalition, Iraqi and Western officials told reporters, after a US drone strike on Baghdad that sparked outrage.
The Jan. 3 strike, which killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and a top Iraqi commander, was condemned by Baghdad as a breach of its sovereignty and of the coalition’s mandate, which focuses on fighting the Islamic State (IS) group.
Iraq’s parliament swiftly voted in favor of ousting all foreign troops — including the 5,200 US soldiers — and the coalition’s anti-IS operations were indefinitely suspended.
Fearing a swift withdrawal could be destabilizing, Iraqi and Western officials have begun discussing changes to the coalition’s role, local officials and diplomats said.
“We are talking to the coalition countries — France, the UK, Canada — about a range of scenarios,” said Abdelkarim Khalaf, a spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi.
“The essential thing is that no combat troops are present and our airspace is no longer used,” Khalaf told reporters.
Two Western officials said that the prime minister had asked them to “draft some options” on a path forward for the coalition.
These options had been submitted directly to Abdel Mahdi.
They included a coalition not led by the US, an amended mandate with limits to coalition activities or an expanded role for NATO’s separate mission in Iraq.
The Canadian-led NATO mission was set up in 2018 and has about 500 forces training Iraqi troops, although its operations have also been on hold since the US strike.
By comparison, the US-led coalition established in 2014 has up to 8,000 troops in Iraq, the bulk of them US forces.
Khalaf told reporters that a larger role for NATO was one of several options being discussed.
One of the Western officials said “the NATO option” has won initial nods of approval from Abdel Mahdi, the Iraqi military and even anti-US elements of the powerful Hashed al-Shaabi military network.
“I expect it will end with some sort of compromise — a smaller presence under a different title,” he said. “The Americans will still be able to fight IS, and the Iraqis can claim they kicked [the US] out.”
The various options were expected to be laid out at a meeting yesterday between Iraq and NATO in Amman and again next month by NATO defense ministers.
“But there is recognition among the Europeans that there needs to be US buy-in to whatever happens next,” the Western official said.
Following the parliament vote, Abdel Mahdi invited the US to send a delegation to Baghdad to discuss a withdrawal, but the US Department of State declined.
US President Donald Trump has said he wants NATO to play a larger role in the region.
His special envoy to the coalition, James Jeffrey, last week hinted at a shift, although he said talks were in “a very early stage.”
“So there may be a shift between — at some point, hypothetically — between the number of forces under the NATO rubric and the number of forces under the coalition,” he told reporters on Thursday last week.
NATO, whose mandate in Iraq is renewed yearly, has said that any broader role would only involve training, and an official from the alliance said that there was “no discussion” of a combat role.
“There have been discussions between allies, and a lot of contact between NATO and the government of Iraq in the last couple of weeks,” a NATO official told reporters.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) removed former minister of foreign affairs Qin Gang (秦剛) from his post after an investigation concluded that he had conducted an affair and fathered a child while serving as ambassador to the US, the Wall Street Journal reported. Top officials were told in August that a CCP inquiry into Qin uncovered “lifestyle issues,” the newspaper reported yesterday, citing people familiar with the situation that it did not describe. That phrase usually means sexual misbehavior of some type in the parlance of Chinese officialdom. Two of the people said the affair led to the birth of a child in
GUNNED DOWN: The Canadian PM said there were credible allegations that India was connected to the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey on June 18 India yesterday dismissed allegations that its government was linked to the killing of a Sikh activist in Canada as “absurd,” expelling a senior Canadian diplomat and accusing Canada of interfering in India’s internal affairs. It came a day after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described what he called credible allegations that India was connected to the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, an advocate of Sikh independence from India who was gunned down on June 18 outside a Sikh cultural center in Surrey, British Columbia, and Canada expelled a top Indian diplomat. “Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a
LOST BATTLE: The Varroa mite, which Canberra has called the ‘most serious pest’ to face bees, would cause serious economic damage, an ecologist said Australia yesterday abandoned its fight to eradicate the destructive Varroa mite, an invasive parasite responsible for the collapse of honeybee populations across the planet. Desperate to keep Varroa out of the country, authorities have destroyed more than 14,000 infected beehives since the tiny red-brown pest was first detected north of Sydney in June last year. The government said its US$64 million eradication plan could not stop the mite from spreading, and the country’s beekeepers should now prepare to live with the incursion. “The recent spike in new detections have made it clear that the Varroa mite infestation is more widespread and has
SECURITY: Wang met with the US national security adviser in Malta over the weekend, with the US side noting the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) yesterday headed to Russia for security talks after two days of meetings with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan over the weekend in Malta. China’s top foreign policy official will be in Russia until Thursday for a round of China-Russia strategic security consultations, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a brief statement. The US and China are at odds over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. China has refrained from taking sides in the war, saying that while a country’s territory must be respected, the West needs to consider Russia’s security concerns about NATO’s