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Iraqi President slams Trump’s proposal to keep troops in Iraq to ‘watch’ Iran

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo meets with Iraqi President Barham Salih, in Baghdad, Iraq on January 9, 2019. (U.S. State Department/Released)
February 04, 2019

Iraq has rejected President Donald Trump’s proposal to maintain a U.S. base in Iraq to keep watch on Iran.

Iraqi President Barham Salih denounced the plan of using his country to keep surveillance on Iran, saying the U.S. has neither asked permission for such activities, nor should it burden Iraq with such a policy, the Washington Post reported Monday.

“We will not allow this,” Salih said. “Iraq does not want to be a party or axis to any conflict between multiple countries.”

“Don’t overburden Iraq with your own issues,” Saleh said, according to BBC News. “The U.S. is a major power… but do not pursue your own policy priorities. We live here.”

Salih noted that U.S. forces are in Iraq for the mission of fighting terrorists, adding that Iraq has a “fundamental interest to develop good relations with our neighbors, including Iran.”

Trump’s idea to keep a base in Iraq comes amid his decision to withdraw troops from both Syria and Afghanistan, where troops have been fighting since 2001.

In an interview with CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday, Trump indicated that he didn’t want the base in Iraq to go to waste.

“We might as well keep it. And one of the reasons I want to keep it is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran, because Iran is a real problem,” he said.

Trump explained that some of the troops from Syria and Afghanistan would be moving to the Al Asad Airbase located in the Anbar province in Iraq. There, troops would be able to support Israel along with monitoring Iran’s activities.

“All I want to do is be able to watch,” Trump noted, when asked if the U.S. could launch an attack on Iran from the base.

“If there’s trouble, if somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we’re going to know it before they do,” he added.

The 2008 U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement prohibits U.S. forces from using Iraq as a launch point for attacks on foreign adversaries.

Aside from Salih, Trump’s plan was also not well-received by other Iraqi officials.

“Talking about U.S. military bases in Iraq for the purposes of confrontation complicates the relationship with neighboring countries,” said Haider al-Abadi, former Prime Minister of Iraq.

The U.S. “send[s] the wrong message about the future of the relations we aspire to,” a top Iraqi official told the Washington Post.