Friday, 26 April, 2019

United States to stay in Iraq to 'watch Iran'

GettyImages-1075161486 Donald Trump will keep troops in Iraq to 'watch Iran'
Leonard Rios | 06 February, 2019, 04:12

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 US involvement in the region.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday that US President Donald Trump's expressed wish to keep US forces in Iraq in order to monitor neighboring Iran has exposed American "lies" about fighting terrorism.

It follows an interview in which the US president said America had "spent a fortune" on building a military base in Iraq 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".

US President Donald Trump's pledge on Sunday to keep American troops in Iraq has been condemned as "an insult" to national sovereignty, fuelling growing calls for Baghdad to expel "foreign forces". "It's perfectly situated for looking at all over different parts of the troubled Middle East rather than pulling up".

Reports surfaced late past year saying that the Trump administration was considering withdrawing half of the 14,000 USA troops deployed to Afghanistan.

During his roughly three-hour visit, his first to troops in a combat zone, Trump broke tradition set by previous USA presidents by not meeting with Iraqi leaders.

There are about 5,000 USA troops still in Iraq.

He added that territory under ISIS's control had been reduced to less than 20 square miles and would be recaptured by USA -backed forces prior to the US withdrawal, which he said would be carried out in a 'deliberate and coordinated manner'.

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"We're going to be there, and we're going to be staying. We will never go back to the era of American domination", he said. The militias fought alongside US -backed Iraqi troops against IS in recent years, gaining outsized influence and power along the way.

Separately, the U.S. called on nations around the world to take back their citizens who fought for Islamic State and are now being held by the SDF in Syria. "We're going to have a strong border".

But Trump's comments to CBS could undermine those negotiations by inflaming fears among Iraqis that USA military activity in Iraq will be aimed at checking Iran, and not defeating ISIL, the Times said.

The counter-ISIS battle in Syria is different in many ways than past US wars.

"The Iraqi constitution rejects the use of Iraq as a base for hitting or attacking a neighboring country", he said. Jack Reed said administration's "contradictory statements" on a Syria withdrawal, "underscore that this decision was anything but thoughtful and deliberate".

Syrian schoolchildren walk as US troops patrol near Turkish border in Hasakah, Syria on November 4, 2018.

"When I took over Syria it was infested with ISIS - it was all over the place - and now you have very little ISIS and you have the caliphate nearly knocked out", Trump said in the interview.

Some Democrats had anxious Monday's vote could be seen as lending new legal backing to the 2001 authorization for the use of military force against al Qaeda - legislation that has since been stretched to cover US military intervention in more than a dozen countries, including Syria.

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