Iran-backed militias offer truce for US pullout from Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) – Iraqi militias backed by Iran have agreed to temporarily halt attacks targeting the American presence in Iraq, on the condition that United States (US)-led coalition troops withdraw from the country in line with a parliamentary resolution, three militia officials said on Sunday.

The militia officials spoke to The Associated Press just hours after a roadside bomb targetted a convoy that was transporting equipment for the US-led coalition, damaging one vehicle, an Iraqi army statement said. The attack on a highway south of Baghdad prompted questions over whether such a truce could hold across all militia factions.

Roadside bombs and in particular rocket attacks targetting the US Embassy in Baghdad – located inside the heavily fortified Green Zone – have become a frequent occurrence and have strained ties between Washington and Baghdad.

The militia factions offered a truce and will refrain from targetting the US in Iraq, including the embassy, on the condition that all American-led forces withdraw within an “acceptable timeframe,” said Mohammed Mohie, a spokesman for the powerful Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah.

“If it does not withdraw, the resistance factions will resume their military activities with all the capabilities available to them,” he said.

Two other factions from different Iran-backed groups echoed Mohie’s comments, without specifying a length for the truce, and said it was open-ended. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to give statements.

Iraqi lawmakers voted in January on a non-binding resolution to oust US-led coalition troops from the country, following a Washington-directed drone strike that killed Iranian General Qassim Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis outside Baghdad’s international airport.

The militia factions’ comments indicate some deescalation following weeks of tensions. The Trump administration has warned Iraq’s leadership it would close the US Embassy in Baghdad if the militia groups were not contained.