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Iraq votes to expel US troops after drone strike

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The US military presence in the Middle East has been thrown into jeopardy , as Iraq’s parliament voted to expel US troops from their country while the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group warned the US will ‘pay the price’ for killing a top Iranian general.

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Hassan Nasrallah said that US bases, warships and soldiers in the Middle East were all fair targets after the US drone strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani, the architect of many of Iran’s regional military campaigns in recent years.

The two developments were new signs of the backlash over Friday’s killing of Soleimani and a number of top Iraqi officials at the Baghdad airport.

Later Sunday, at least three explosions shook the Iraqi capital and sirens sounded across the Tigris River.

The blasts appeared to be mortars or rockets that landed inside the heavily fortified Green Zone where the US and other embassies are based, as well as the seat of Iraq’s government.

It was the second such attack in two days.

“When American troops …come vertically and return horizontally to the United States of America, then Trump and his administration will know that they lost the region and will lose the elections,” Nasrallah said.

Nasrallah spoke from an undisclosed location, and his speech was played on large screens for thousands of Shi’Ite followers in southern Beirut, interrupted by chants of “Death to America!”

His stark warning came as Iraq’s parliament voted in favour of a non-binding resolution calling for the expulsion of US troops from their country.

The resolution asks the Iraqi government to end the agreement under which Washington sent forces more than four years ago to help fight the IS extremists.

In a speech in Iraq’s parliament, Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called for “urgent measures” to remove foreign forces – including the estimated 5,200 US troops.

The United States said it was disappointed in the result.

“While we await further clarification on the legal nature and impact of today’s resolution, we strongly urge Iraqi leaders to reconsider the importance of the ongoing economic and security relationship between the two countries and the continued presence of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

American forces withdrew from Iraq in 2011 but returned in 2014 at the invitation of the government to help battle IS after it seized vast areas in the north and west of the country, including Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul.

A US-led coalition provided crucial air support as Iraqi forces, including Iran-backed militias, regrouped and drove IS out in a costly three-year campaign.

US Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Fox News that the parliamentary vote is “a bit concerning.”

“The Iranian government is trying to basically take over Iraq’s political system. Iran is bribing Iraqi politicians. To the Iraqi people, do not allow your politicians to turn Iraq into a proxy of Iran,” the South Carolina Republican said.

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