Trump Wants to Keep Troops in Iraq to Monitor Iran
“All I want to do is be able to watch,” Trump said in an interview regarding his plan to keep troops in Iraq to monitor Iran.
On Sunday, U.S. President Donald Trump told CBS that he planned to keep a U.S. military presence in Iraq to “monitor” Iran, despite admitting that the U.S.’ invasion of Iraq was one of Washington’s biggest mistakes.
When asked whether Trump will attack Iran, he answered, “No.” Trump, however, added that what he wants to do is watch Iran from the “incredible” and costly military base that the U.S. built in Iraq.
“We spent a fortune on building this incredible base. We might as well keep it. 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,” Trump said on CBS’ Face the Nation program.
Washington’s fear of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons is behind Trump’s desire to maintain troops in Iraq. Trump claimed that his administration will be able to spot if someone uses a loophole to build nuclear arsenals or cause problems.
“If there’s trouble, if somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we’re going to know it before they do,” he added.
Iraq Angry With Trump’s Plan
Trump’s statement ticked off Iraq with Iraqi President Brahimi Saleh saying Trump did not request Baghdad’s permission to deploy US troops in the country to “watch Iran.”
“Don’t overburden Iraq with your own issues. The U.S. is a major power… but do not pursue your own policy priorities. We live here,” Saleh told a forum in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Monday.
Saleh also reminded everyone that under the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement, signed in 2008, the U.S. is prohibited to use Iraq as a transit or a launching point to strike other countries.
Iraqi Deputy Parliament Speaker, Hasan al-Kaabi said he is drafting a new law that would end the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq sometime during parliament’s next session.
As Turkish news agency Anadolu reported, al-Kaabi stated that Trump had violated Iraqi sovereignty with his unannounced visit to a U.S. airbase in Ain al-Asad, only 100 miles West of Baghdad, and without visiting any Iraqi officials. The visit angered Iraqi officials and resulted in threats to force the U.S. military out of the country.
“The response of Iraqis will be the decision of the parliament to force U.S. troops to leave Iraq,” said Qais Khazali, the leader of the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, also called the Khazali Network, on Twitter.
“And if you don’t do so, we have experience and capabilities to force your troops to withdraw, and your forces know these ways that forced them to withdraw in 2011,” the tweet continued.
US Intelligence Report on Iran Contradicts Trump
On January 29, multiple heads of U.S. intelligence agencies testified before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on “Worldwide Threats”, with Iran and North Korea being a particular focus. Some of the claims presented by the intelligence community appeared to contradict Trump’s own assessments of Iran and North Korea.
CIA Director, Gina Haspel said that Iran is still technically complying with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal despite the U.S.’ withdrawal from the pact. Trump exited the agreement, known as the JCPOA, in May 2018 in an effort to restrict Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
According to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, North Korea will likely not surrender its weapons stock nor cease its ability to produce a nuclear arsenal while undergoing any denuclearization talks.
Despite some disagreement with Trump over Iran and North Korea, Coats agreed with Trump’s claim that the influx of migrations from neighboring Central American nations is a real threat to U.S. national security.
However, Trump snubbed his intelligence chiefs and their 42-page report for being too naive and passive on Iran issues.
“Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school,” Trump said in a tweet.
Trump: US Must Protect Israel
Trump’s insistence on maintaining troops in Iraq to watch Iran raised questions about whether he will follow through with his plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Syria. That plan, announced last December, ultimately triggered the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Trump later seemed to walk back his words by citing the need to protect Israel as a reason for not pulling all American troops from war-torn Syria.