Trump wants to keep U.S. military in Iraq to 'watch' Iran

Hugh Fox
February 5, 2019

The remarks were included in its quarterly report to Congress.

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. Moreover, the power vacuum caused by the departure of USA troops in Syria could be filled by ISIS or al-Qaeda in Syria or Iraq, according to US intelligence chiefs.

While the amendment is a nonbinding provision without the force of law, it sent a clear message to the White House that any plans to immediately pull troops out of war zones could jeopardize the fight against groups like the so-called Islamic State, leave Kurdish allies on the ground defenseless, and embolden US adversaries like Russian Federation and Iran.

Salih's comments came hours after Trump appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation" claiming troops were in Iraq to keep tabs on Iran.

"You're always going to have pockets of something", he told CBS, arguing that you don't keep an army in the country on the basis of a few people. "We've been there for many, many years".

"All I want to do is be able to watch", he said, pointing out that the usa 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.

The US decision to reimpose sanctions lifted under former president Barack Obama, as well as new measures targeting Iran's oil, banking and shipping industries has left Baghdad caught in the middle of growing tensions between its two biggest allies.

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"I want to be able to watch Iran", Trump continued.

In an interview that aired Sunday, Trump saidit was important to keep a military presence in Iraq so Washington could keep on eye on neighboring Iran.

Trump on Saturday said he wanted to keep American soldiers in Iraq to "watch Iran", but official agreements between the USA and Iraq limit their remit to fighting terrorist groups such as the Islamic State and providing training and tactical advice to Iraqi forces.

The policy of "watching" Iran from inside Iraq came as a surprise and outrage to Iraqi leaders.

Iraqi President Barham Salih addresses the press on Monday morning.

"Don't overburden Iraq with your own issues", he added.

Opponents included every senator considering a 2020 presidential run, and four Republicans, who said US foreign policy needs a rethink.

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Salih recalled that USA troops are deployed in Iraq in line with a bilateral agreement which specifically stipulates the two countries making joint efforts to fight terrorism.

"We have a base in Iraq and the base is a fantastic edifice".

"Its interests should not be compromised", the prime minister from 2014 to 2018 wrote.

"Iraq should not be used as a spring board to attack its neighbors. We are not proxies in conflicts outside the interests of our nation", he wrote.

Trump also indicated that he is not in sync with the assessment of his intelligence chief on the nuclear weapons programme of North Korea.

"All parties need, as soon as possible, to stop the US presence and not allow Iraq to be used as a springboard for aggression or surveillance of any state", the statement read.

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