Iraqi President Says Trump Did Not Ask Permission To 'Watch Iran'

Minnie Murray
February 5, 2019

While President Donald Trump announced a hasty withdrawal of United States military forces from Afghanistan and Syria late previous year, he wants to keep soldiers stationed in Iraq "to watch" Iran-a policy shift which has angered leading Iraqi politicians, while creating a giant question mark over the nature of USA involvement in the region.

For the first time since he became United States president nearly two years ago, Trump paid a surprise visit to American troops in Iraq on December 26.

Salih also emphasized Iraq's own primary political concerns, emphasizing the "fundamental interest for Iraq to have good relations with Iran".

"Don't overburden Iraq with your own issues".

"I want to be able to watch Iran", the President said in response to a question about whether the troops will be kept in Iraq in view of a potential military strike against Iran. "We have a base in Iraq and the base is a fantastic edifice", he said. "We might as well keep it".

Trump also said he wants to leave troops in Iraq, however, in order to keep an eye on the regime in Iran.

"All I want to do is be able to watch", he said, pointing out that the U.S. has an "unbelievable and expensive military base" in the country that is in the best location for keeping watch on events in the Middle East.

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. He also slammed the notion that the US has a base in Iraq, reminding the world that the military bases in Iraq are Iraqi and foreigners are there as guests only. The militias fought alongside US -backed Iraqi troops against IS in recent years, gaining outsized influence and power along the way.

But Trump told CBS that the United States could respond to developments in Syria from neighboring Iraq. ISIS remains an active insurgent group in both Iraq and Syria. "And it's there. And we'll be there", he said. Iran has been deepening its influence in Iraq since the U.S.'s 2003 invasion.

Trump said that the USA troops in Syria were starting to come home, as they push out the "final remainder of the [IS] caliphate".

There are an 5,000 estimated U.S. military personnel in Iraq authorised to train, advise and assist Iraqi security forces in their fight against IS, which has not fully controlled any territory in the country for more than a year.

He went on to say he'd keep troops in Iraq to be able to "watch Iran", which elicited a strong reaction from Iraqi President Barham Salih. He added that he would wait for clarifications from Washington on the numbers and nature of the USA troops' mission in his country.

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi tweeted in English on Monday that "Iraqi sovereignty must be respected". That has left Matthew Zais, the National Security Council director for Iraq, and Andrew Peek, the State Department's deputy assistant secretary for Iraq and Iran, in the lead in Washington. "Iraq's constitution does not allow our territory of our country to be used against our neighbors", he explained.

"My intelligence people, if they said in fact that Iran is a wonderful kindergarten, I disagree with them 100 percent".

Only U.S. military and intelligence officials publicly insist it will likely not be so easy. "We are not proxies in conflicts outside the interests of our nation", he wrote.

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