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Iran-linked groups vow more attacks on US forces in Iraq

Iran-allied armed groups vowed Friday to keep up attacks on US-led coalition forces in Iraq, ahead of imminent talks between Washington and Baghdad on the future of the foreign troops in the country. Washington has forces in Iraq as part of the international coalition against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, but after the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war the troops have faced frequent attacks, prompting the US to launch retaliatory strikes in Iraq. The volatile situation has pushed Iraq’s prime minister — whose government relies on the support of Iran-aligned parties — to call for the coalition to leave. The United States and Iraq announced Thursday that discussions on the troops were set to start, with Baghdad expecting them to lead to a timeline for reducing the forces. In a statement on Telegram, the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq”, a loose alliance of Iran-linked groups that oppose US support for Israel in the Gaza conflict, said that American agreement to hold the talks was “an attempt to reshuffle the cards… and buy time”. “The Islamic Resistance’s response will be to continue its operations… against the foreign presence… until their true intentions and the seriousness of their commitment to withdraw their forces are proven”, the group said. Iraq’s foreign ministry said Thursday that Washington and Baghdad had agreed to form working groups that would eventually lead to formulating “a specific and clear timeline… and to begin the gradual reduction of its (the coalition’s) advisers on Iraqi soil”. The ministry said the timeline would be contingent on evaluating the “threat posed by IS and its danger” as well as the “reinforcement of the capacities of the Iraqi security forces”. Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh told journalists on Thursday that the US military footprint in Iraq “will certainly be part of the conversations as it goes forward”. Earlier, a senior US defence official had said the upcoming meetings would not be a negotiation on the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, but said Washington “sees a need to transition to a normal bilateral security cooperation relationship”. There are roughly 2,500 US troops deployed in Iraq and about 900 in Syria as part of the anti-IS coalition formed in 2014 — the year the jihadist group overran around a third of Iraq.

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