Iraq Says Joint Operations With US-Led Coalition Resume

Iraq Says Joint Operations With US-Led Coalition Resume

Iraq's military has said it is resuming operations with the US-led coalition against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), Reuters reported.

Iraq has named a new prime minister after four months of protests.

That tension boiled over when the United States killed Iranian military mastermind Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad on January 3.

The statement said joint operations had resumed in light of the continued threat posed by IS. The leadership has also called for planning to break out of ISIS fighters from prison and exploit security vulnerabilities in Iraq and Syria.

The statement also implied that Baghdad was standing by intentions to reorganize Iraq's military relationship with the U.S.

"In order to exploit the time that remains for the global coalition before the new relationship is set up.it was chose to carry out joint actions" to defeat IS, an Iraqi military statement said on Thursday.

The coalition paused operations in support of Iraqi forces in the fight against ISIS militants on January 5 after a USA airstrike killed Soleimani and senior Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis on Iraq soil, sparking outrage among Iraqi officials. The radical cleric held an anti-U.S. rally attended by tens of thousands and withdrew support for Iraq's mass anti-government protest movement, only to reverse the decision later. The coalition refocused on protecting military personnel amid fears of an Iranian counter-attack.

Despite signs of de-escalation after Iran retaliated with a barrage of missiles on two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S troops that caused no fatalities, outgoing Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi has been vocal that American troops should withdraw and has said steps are being taken to move the process forward.

Protesters in Tahrir Square have already publicly rejected a number of names floated for prime minister, including former communications minister Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi and current intelligence chief Mustafa Kazemi.

Abdul-Mahdi's resignation was precipitated by ongoing mass protests in Baghdad and southern Iraq.

Iraqi protests

Saleh has given political blocs until February 1 to select a candidate or else he would select one himself, he said in a statement Wednesday.

A deadline set by Iraq's president for parliament to name a new premier was set to expire Saturday amid renewed pressure from the street after influential cleric Moqtada Sadr called for fresh protests.

But he backed the protests when they erupted in October and his supporters were widely recognized as the best organized demonstrators.

More than 480 people have died in protest-related violence since October, the great majority of them demonstrators killed by live rounds or military-grade tear gas canisters.

Iraq's government has long had to balance its close relations with both Washington and Tehran, which sponsors powerful Shi'ite armed groups and political factions hostile to the United States.

"I hope the president's appointment of Mohammad Allawi is acceptable to the people and that they have patience".

Al-Sadr's followers returned in the hundreds the Friday night, three witnesses said, bringing tents and supplies and re-occupying a strategic high-rise overlooking the square known as the Turkish Restaurant, as well as the Jumhuriya Bridge, which leads to the Green Zone.

"The square doesn't want him, but the problem is since Muqtada has sided with (the elites) the square can not refuse him", said civil activist Kamal Jaban.

Support from al-Sadr was crucial in parliament's passing of an electoral reform bill, a key demand of demonstrators. "But we gave a promise that we will not return until the revolution succeeds".

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