Iraqi MP Dhafer Al-Ani, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Iraqi parliament, said in a January 5, 2020 interview on Al-Arabiya TV (Saudi Arabia) that the recent vote by the Iraqi parliament to expel U.S. forces from Iraq was a hasty decision and a strategic mistake made by a pro-Iranian political elite that did not consult with other political blocks in Iraq. He said that the decision, which gives the impression that the political elites side with Iran in the conflict between the U.S. and Iran, is not consistent with the interests of the Iraqi people, who he pointed out have been protesting in the streets against Iran for two months. Al-Ani said that the armed factions and militias in Iraq are a threat and that the Sunni provinces in Iraq still require international assistance in fighting terrorism because there are ISIS sleeper cells in these regions. He added: "We cannot expel international forces that have been fighting terrorism for years simply because of emotional pressure. This should make us concerned that terrorism will re-emerge."
Dhafer Al-Ani: "The political force that promoted today's decision [to expel U.S. forces] did not consult us or with the other political blocks. They pushed for a hasty decision that affects the fate of Iraq. This decision was made at a moment of crisis that has an emotional aspect. We believed, and still believe, that a decision of such magnitude should be thoroughly examined and that there should be national consensus on it. This was not the case today.
"I think that what happened in today's meeting was a big strategic mistake. This is not consistent with the interests of the Iraqi people, not only because this is a decision to expel the American forces, but also because the political elite that makes the decisions in Iraq today gave the impression that in the conflict between Iran and America, they side with Iran. This is the big mistake. Siding with a rogue state, a state that is considered by most of the international community to be an evil country that is trying to form an axis of evil... [Siding with Iran] would entangle the Iraqi people with an axis that does not serve its interests. I believe that this is the mistake. The second mistake which is perhaps even greater, is that the political elite in power has proven that it acts against the aspirations of the public. The public has been taking to the streets for two months, and there have been thousands of martyrs and wounded people. They have been chanting: 'Out with Iran!' yet today's decision, particularly in light of the political statements that accompanied the meeting in which the decision was made, indicates the exact opposite – that the political elite welcomes Iran's presence and influence, and sympathizes with Iran, in complete contradiction of the people's interests and aspirations.
"The democracy we have in Iraq is an 'armed democracy.' There are political parties that command tens of thousands of militants..."
Interviewer: "Democracy and weapons do not go hand-in-hand."
Dhafer Al-Ani: "Absolutely not. In addition, it seems that the state's security and military organs are weak compared to the infiltration of the armed factions and militias.
"If you recall, the mass graves that were recently discovered in Al-Anbar, Mosul, and other places were not created by the United States. They were created by these militias. I think that presenting the Americans as the big villains in Iraq sends the message that Iraq has joined the Iranian axis instead of the other axis.
"I think that the [Sunni] provinces still need international military aid and the international agreement to fight terrorism. There are still ISIS sleeper cells in these provinces, so we still need... We cannot expel international forces that have been fighting terrorism for years simply because of emotional pressure. This should make us concerned that terrorism will re-emerge."