Saturday, 23 February, 2019

Senate breaks from Trump with Syria troop vote

Trump Says Troops Will Stay In Iraq Because U.S. Built an 'Expensive' Base There Trump wants to keep US military in Iraq to 'watch' Iran
Andrew Cummings | 05 February, 2019, 02:14

Trump told CBS's Face the Nation the 2,000 USA troops in the country to assist local forces would leave "in a matter of time", and cited the need to "protect Israel and other things that we have" for slowing down - after initially announcing an immediate pull-out.

Iraqi President Barham Salih on Monday rejected a plan floated by President Trump that calls for keeping US forces in Iraq to "watch" neighboring Iran, saying the United States should not burden Iraq with its own "policy priorities".

Nobody home: The counter-Iran aspect of Trump's Iraq policy creates challenges for the USA administration, since very few officials are left to deal specifically with Baghdad.

Salih also said it in Iraq's "fundamental interest to develop good relations with our neighbors, including Iran".

Trump on Saturday said he wanted to keep American soldiers in Iraq to "watch Iran", but official agreements between the U.S. and Iraq limit their remit to fighting terrorist groups such as the Islamic State and providing training and tactical advice to Iraqi forces. "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 in an apparent reference to Ayn al Asad Air Base in western Iraq, which he visited during an unannounced trip to the country in December.

"We spent a fortune on building this incredible base, we might as well keep it". Bloomberg's Riad Hamade reports on "Bloomberg Daybreak: Middle East".

In the CBS interview Mr Trump defended his recent decision to withdraw the 2,000 United States troops deployed in neighbouring Syria to support a Kurdish-led militia alliance seeking to capture the last pocket of IS territory there.

Asked if that meant he wanted to be able to launch a strike on Iran, Mr Trump said, "No, because I want to be able to watch Iran".

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That is the president's plan, as he announced in December the complete withdrawal of US forces from Syria - a controversial move among his Pentagon chiefs and members of his own party.

"President Bush had intel people that said Saddam Hussein in Iraq had nuclear weapons - had all sorts of weapons of mass destruction", Trump told Brennan.

In case Washington decides to raid Iran or Syria from Iraq, the Kata'ib Hezbollah will "cut off its hands", the spokesman added.

He appeared to be referring to the Al-Asad air base in western Iraq, where he paid a brief visit to USA forces in December.

The report also said that "DoD provided only limited responses and was not able to answer a number of questions, including whether or not Turkish forces, Syrian regime forces, or [the US -backed] Syrian Democratic Forces have the capability and intent to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS in Syria".

Iraq is in a hard position as tensions between its two biggest allies, the United States and Iran, increase. Iran has been deepening its influence in Iraq since the U.S.'s 2003 invasion. "They're exhausted. Everybody's exhausted".

"Memories of occupation are still fresh, and we're rubbing salt on that", Douglas Ollivant, a former National Security Council director for Iraq, told Al-Monitor.

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