Amid Tensions, Top US Mideast Military Commander Visits Iraq
Marine Gen. Kenneth F. (“Frank”) McKenzie, the top military commander in the Middle East for the United States, became the most senior American official to visit Iraq since tensions exploded in the country with the January 3 killing of Iranian Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike. The targeted attack was followed by a move in the Iraqi parliament to pass a nonbinding resolution calling for the expulsion of all US troops, a move that was immediately rebuffed by US President Trump Donald. Protests across Iraq have seen demonstrators demanding the removal of all foreign troops, which are in the country to prevent the re-emergence of Islamic State and oversee train-and-assist missions with local security personnel. McKenzie met with political and military leaders in Baghdad and then visited Ain al-Asad Air Base, which Iran last month targeted with ballistic missiles in retaliation for Soleimani’s death. Despite widespread opposition, the Pentagon is currently negotiating with Baghdad for the possible deployment of Patriot missile batteries in order to better protect about 6,000 US troops stationed there.