Iraqi president hits back at Trump over US army presence

Leroy Wright
February 5, 2019

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.

Iraq's president has hit back at comments made by Donald Trump, saying that the United States president did not ask Iraq's permission for USA troops stationed there to "watch Iran".

The US could rely heavily on intelligence work in Afghanistan, he said, and respond to developments in Syria from US bases in neighbouring Iraq.

"We will not allow this", he said, adding that American forces are in Iraq only to assist in the fight against terrorism.

Salih added, "It is of fundamental interest for Iraq to have good relations with Iran and other neighboring countries".

"We spent a fortune on building this incredible base". It's perfectly situated for looking at all over different parts of the troubled Middle East.

Multiple defense officials tell CNN that the President's remarks on monitoring Iran from Iraq were unclear to Pentagon officials who were unsure if they indicated the USA mission in Iraq is changing.

The U.S. national security establishment reacted with alarm earlier this month after reports broke out about Trump's plans for an immediate and total withdrawal of troops from Syria, as well as a drawdown of thousands of troops in Afghanistan. "The US is a major power. but do not pursue your own policy priorities".

Mr. Trump told Brennan that 2,000 troops remain in Syria, but they are starting to come home, as they push out the "final remainder of the caliphate".

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USA military commanders rely heavily on Syrian forces to gather intelligence from information and material gathered from the battlefield, but also a wide-range of informers with firsthand knowledge about ISIS operations.

The report, which covers October through December 2018, also includes a classified section that was provided to Congress and includes a more detailed Pentagon assessment on the impact of the troops withdrawal and the status of IS militants and other foreign fighters in Syria.

"I'm not sure you can watch Iran from inside Iraq", he said on CNN's "At This Hour".

As part of its withdrawal plan, the US has sought for all Iranian-commanded forces to exit Syria. In 2014, the Iraqi government sent a letter to the United Nations requesting "the United States of America to lead worldwide efforts to strike ISIL sites and military strongholds with our express consent".

According to The Daily Beast, anti-American Iraqi lawmakers, led by political leader Muqtada Sadr, were already planning to vote on a parliamentary measure that would call for the expulsion of US forces.

While singling out the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as "tenacious fighters", the inspector general noted the threat of a Turkish invasion against these US-backed forces, as Ankara views them to be linked to Turkish separatists. "Now, that doesn't mean we're not going to be watching with intelligence".

Iraqi Deputy Speaker of Parliament Hassan Karim al-Kaabi, also close to Sadr, said they were a "new provocation", weeks after Trump sparked outrage in Iraq by visiting USA troops at Ain al-Asad without meeting a single Iraqi official.

Trump suggested that his intelligence community is so inept that it might describe Iran as a "wonderful kindergarten" and that he might leave troops in Iraq to "watch Iran".

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