In a sharp reaction to US President Donald Trump’s statement that American forces in Iraq will stay to spy on Iran, Iraqi politicians on Monday hit back angrily saying Iarqi constitution does not allow Iraq to be used as a base for attacking neighbouring country.
In an interview with CBS television, Trump reiterated his resolve to pull the United States out of “endless wars” in Syria and Afghanistan but said American troops would stay on in Iraq, partly to be looking a little bit at Iran.
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Referring to Ain al-Asad air base in western Iraq, he said “We spent a fortune on building this incredible base. We might as well keep it”. “If somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we’re going to know it before they do,” he said.
His comments sparked a new round of demands in Baghdad for US forces to leave the country.
Reacting to Trum’s interview, Iraqi President Barham Saleh said “The Iraqi constitution rejects the use of Iraq as a base for hitting or attacking a neighbouring country”. US forces were in the country legally under an agreement between the two countries, but that “any action taken outside this framework is unacceptable”, Saleh said.
To fight the Islamic State group which overrun Syria and Iraq in 2014, US has been leading a coalition with multiple offensives and ousted the jihadists from most of the area except in territory in eastern Syria.
Trump’s surprise decision in December to pull troops out of neighbouring Syria put Baghdad in a fix. Pro-Iran factions in Iraq stepped up calls for an accelerated US withdrawal from Iraq. Influential anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr has long lobbied and proposed a bill demanding a US pullout.