Will Iraq finally push US troops out because of Gaza?

Image: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images

After the US assassinated the leader of an Iraqi militia in Baghdad, the Iraqi government says it will kick US troops out. Do tensions around Gaza make it more likely this time?

The Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza offers Iraq “a historic opportunity,” Hassan Nasrallah, the influential leader of the Lebanese group Hezbollah, said in his speech late last week.

Hezbollah is a political and military organization based in Lebanon and is opposed to Israel. As such, it is part of a network of groups in the region, which Iran supports to one degree or another, that feel the same way about Israel. That includes the Houthis in Yemen and various paramilitary groups in Iraq.

As Nasrallah said in his speech, all of these groups have been “distracting the enemy” during the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Hezbollah, whose military wing the European Union classifies as a terrorist organization, has been exchanging rocket fire with Israeli troops on Lebanon’s disputed southern border with Israel. The Houthis are attacking commercial vessels off their own coast, and Iraqi groups have launched rockets and drones against US bases in their country.

Over 100 attacks on US bases in Iraq

Iraqi militias operating under the name “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” are thought to have been behind many of the over 100 attacks targeting US bases in Iraq and Syria, launched since the Gaza conflict began.

Although numbers have dropped hugely from a peak of around 130,000 during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, there are still around 2,500 American soldiers stationed in Iraq. They are mostly there as part of the international coalition fighting the extremist “Islamic State” (IS) group.

The US has responded in different ways to these attacks In Iraq, but mostly, they’ve been restrained, observers say. However, a US missile strike in Baghdad last week killed Mushtaq Jawad Kazim al-Jawari, a senior member of one of the Iran-backed militias, Harakat al-Nujaba.

Members of the Iraqi government, including Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, described the US attack as a blatant violation of Iraqi sovereignty and a “dangerous escalation.”

By Friday, the Iraqi government was discussing plans to kick US troops out of Iraq permanently. Experts say this wouldn’t even necessarily be that difficult and likely only requires a letter because the US troops are in Iraq at the government’s invitation.

Courtesy of DW