Associated Press – Dec 27, 2018
Iraqi lawmakers have demanded US forces leave the country in the wake of a surprise visit by Donald Trump, which politicians denounced as arrogant and a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.
Politicians from both blocs of Iraq’s divided parliament called for a vote to expel US troops and promised to schedule an extraordinary session to debate the matter.
“Parliament must clearly and urgently express its view about the ongoing American violations of Iraqi sovereignty,” said Salam al-Shimiri, a lawmaker loyal to the populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Trump, making his first presidential visit to troops in a troubled region on Wednesday, said he had no plans to withdraw the 5,200 US forces in the country.
Containing foreign influence has become a hot-button issue in a year that saw Sadr supporters win the largest share of votes in May elections. Sadr has called for curbing US and Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs.
US troops are stationed in Iraq as part of the coalition against the Islamic State terror group. American forces withdrew in 2011 after invading in 2003 but returned in 2014 at the invitation of the Iraqi government to help fight the jihadist group.
But after defeating Isis militants in their last urban bastions last year, Iraqi politicians and militia leaders are speaking out against the continued presence of US forces in Iraqi soil.
Though Isis has lost a significant amount of territory in Iraq and Syria, it is still seen as a threat.
Qais Khazali, the head of the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia that fought key battles against Isis in north Iraq, promised on Twitter that parliament would vote to expel US forces from Iraq, or the militia and others would force them out by “other means”.
Khazali was jailed by British and US forces from 2007 to 2010 for managing sections of the Shia insurgency against the occupation during those years.
His militia is represented in parliament by the Binaa bloc, a rival coalition to Sadr’s Islah. Binaa favors close ties with Iran and is aligned with Tehran on regional political issues.
Trump spent three hours at a US air base meeting with American troops during his visit. He defended his decision to withdraw 2,000 US troops from neighboring Syria, saying the US military had all but eliminated Isis-controlled territory there.
He left without meeting any Iraqi officials, though he spoke to the prime minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, by phone.
Abdul-Mahdi’s office said in a statement after Trump’s visit that “differences in points of view” over arrangements led to a face-to-face meeting between the two leaders being scrapped.
Shimiri said Trump’s visit “violated several diplomatic norms”.