Iraqi President Says Trump Didn’t Ask Permission To ‘Watch Iran’
IRAQ– The Iraqi president has said that President Donald Trump did not ask Baghdad’s permission for U.S. troops stationed in Iraq to “watch Iran.”
President Barham Salih made the comment on February 4, after Trump said in a television interview that the United States has an “incredible base” in Iraq that he intends to keep “because I want to be able to watch Iran.”
There are an 5,000 estimated U.S. military personnel in Iraq to train, advise, and assist Iraqi security forces.
The forces are there as part of an agreement between the two countries and with a specific mission of combating terrorism, Salih told a forum in Baghdad, adding that they should stick to that mission.
He also said that the Iraqi Constitution forbids the use of Iraq as a base to threaten the interests or security of neighboring countries.
“Don’t overburden Iraq with your own issues,” Salih added.
“It is of fundamental interest for Iraq to have good relations with Iran” and other neighboring countries, the Iraqi president also said.
In a CBS interview broadcast on February 3, Trump said it was important to keep a U.S. military presence in Iraq so that Washington can keep a close eye on Iran “because Iran is a real problem.”
Apparently referring to the Al-Asad air base in western Iraq, Trump said that the facility was “perfectly situated for looking at all over different parts of the troubled Middle East.”
The base hosts U.S. troops but belongs to the Iraqi military.
Trump made the remarks after announcing last month that he was withdrawing all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria.
His comments also came amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran after the United States pulled out of the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and imposed crippling economic sanctions against Tehran last year.
Trump has looked to increase pressure on Iran to bring about what his administration has called a “change in behavior” regarding its weapons programs and its “destabilizing” activities in the region, accusations Tehran denies.
With reporting by AP and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.
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