STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Iraqi lawmakers demand withdrawal of U.S. troops

Furious after President Trump's Christmas visit.

Posted: Dec 27, 2018 4:29 PM
Updated: Dec 27, 2018 4:29 PM

BAGHDAD (AP) — President Donald Trump's surprise trip to Iraq may have quieted criticism at home that he had yet to visit troops in a combat zone, but it has infuriated Iraqi politicians who on Thursday demanded the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

"Arrogant" and an "a violation of national sovereignty" were but a few examples of the disapproval emanating from Baghdad following Trump's meeting Wednesday with U.S. servicemen and women at the al-Asad Airbase.

Trips by U.S. presidents to conflict zones are typically shrouded in secrecy and subject to strict security measures, and Trump's was no exception. Few in Iraq or elsewhere knew the U.S. president was in the country until minutes before he left.

But this trip came as curbing foreign influence in Iraqi affairs has become a hot-button political issue, and Trump's perceived presidential faux-pas was failing to meet with the prime minister in a break with diplomatic custom for any visiting head of state.

On the ground for only about three hours, the American president told the men and women with the U.S. military that Islamic State forces have been vanquished, and he defended his decision against all advice to withdraw U.S. troops from neighboring Syria, He declared: "We're no longer the suckers, folks."

The abruptness of his visit left lawmakers in Baghdad smarting and drawing unfavorable comparisons to the occupation of Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

"Trump needs to know his limits. The American occupation of Iraq is over," said Sabah al-Saidi, the head of one of two main blocs in Iraq's parliament.

Trump, he said, had slipped into Iraq, "as though Iraq is a state of the United States."

While Trump didn't meet with any officials, he spoke with Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi by phone after a "difference in points of view" over arrangements led to a face-to-face encounter between the two leaders getting scrapped, according to the prime minister's office.

The visit could have unintended consequences for American policy, with officials from both sides of Iraq's political divide calling for a vote in Parliament to expel U.S. forces from the country.

The president, who kept to the U.S. air base approximately 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Baghdad, said he had no plans to withdraw the 5,200 troops in the country. He said Ain al-Asad could be used for U.S. air strikes inside Syria.

The suggestion ran counter to the current sentiment of Iraqi politics, which favors claiming sovereignty over foreign and domestic policy and staying above the fray in regional conflicts.

"Iraq should not be a platform for the Americans to settle their accounts with either the Russians or the Iranians in the region," said Hakim al-Zamili, a senior lawmaker in al-Saidi's Islah bloc in Parliament.

U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq as part of the coalition against the Islamic State 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. Trump's visit was the first by a U.S. president since Barack Obama met with then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at a U.S. base outside Baghdad in 2009.

Still, after defeating IS militants in their last urban bastions last year, Iraqi politicians and militia leaders are speaking out against the continued presence of U.S. forces on Iraqi soil.

Supporters of the populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr won big in national elections in May, campaigning on a platform to curb U.S. and rival Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs. Al-Sadr's lawmakers now form the core of the Islah bloc, which is headed by al-Saidi in Parliament.

The rival Binaa bloc, commanded by politicians and militia leaders close to Iran, also does not favor the U.S.

Qais Khazali, the head of the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia that fought key battles against IS in northern Iraq, promised on Twitter that Parliament would vote to expel U.S. forces from Iraq, or the militias would force them out by "other means."

Khazali was jailed by British and U.S. forces from 2007 to 2010 for managing sections of the Shia insurgency against the occupation during those years.

Trump's visit would be a "great moral boost to the political parties, armed factions, and others who oppose the American presence in Iraq," Iraqi political analyst Ziad al-Arar said.

Still, the U.S. and Iraq developed considerable military and intelligence ties in the war against IS, and they continue to pay off in operations against militants gone into hiding.

Earlier in the month, Iraqi forces called in an airstrike by U.S.-coalition forces to destroy a tunnel used by IS militants in the Atshanah mountains in north Iraq. Four militants were killed, according to the coalition.

A hasty departure of U.S. forces would jeopardize such arrangements, said Iraqi analyst Hamza Mustafa.

Relations between the U.S. and Iraq also extend beyond military ties. U.S. companies have considerable interests in Iraq's petrochemical industry, and American diplomats are often brokers between Iraq's fractious political elite.

Iraq's Sunni politicians have been largely quiet about the presidential visit, reflecting the ties they have cultivated with the U.S. to counterbalance the might of the country's Iran-backed and predominantly-Shiite militias.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Abdul-Mahdi accepted Trump's invitation to the White House during their call, though the Prime Minister's office has so far refused to confirm that.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 97638

Reported Deaths: 2067
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin27372932
Ramsey11088322
Dakota7635126
Anoka6238137
Stearns407724
Washington388355
Scott262533
Olmsted251928
Nobles197716
Blue Earth17266
Wright16957
St. Louis165941
Carver14377
Clay141741
Rice13438
Mower13425
Sherburne116914
Kandiyohi10552
Winona91318
Lyon7224
Waseca6898
Benton5603
Crow Wing55518
Steele5552
Freeborn5464
Nicollet54517
Watonwan5304
Chisago5131
Todd5042
McLeod5012
Le Sueur4744
Otter Tail4624
Beltrami4505
Martin43010
Goodhue3829
Itasca34715
Pine3430
Douglas3372
Polk3224
Isanti3151
Becker2812
Carlton2761
Morrison2682
Dodge2570
Pipestone23210
Cottonwood2280
Chippewa2231
Meeker2132
Wabasha2020
Sibley1993
Brown1962
Yellow Medicine1902
Cass1844
Redwood1773
Rock1760
Murray1722
Mille Lacs1693
Renville1578
Unassigned15452
Jackson1491
Faribault1470
Swift1441
Fillmore1330
Houston1280
Kanabec1278
Roseau1250
Koochiching1233
Pennington1201
Hubbard1171
Lincoln1160
Stevens1041
Pope990
Aitkin831
Big Stone830
Wadena720
Wilkin703
Lac qui Parle651
Grant634
Lake600
Norman540
Marshall531
Mahnomen491
Red Lake451
Traverse340
Clearwater280
Lake of the Woods231
Kittson120
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 86860

Reported Deaths: 1315
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk16010262
Woodbury555467
Johnson517027
Black Hawk450990
Linn4101113
Story346217
Dubuque333241
Scott304528
Dallas280738
Pottawattamie215939
Buena Vista199912
Marshall179134
Sioux16803
Wapello134057
Webster128014
Plymouth116121
Clinton113021
Muscatine112155
Crawford11005
Cerro Gordo105921
Warren9666
Jasper86432
Des Moines8008
Marion7697
Henry7554
Tama73932
Carroll6855
Lee6437
Wright5961
Dickinson5306
Boone5178
Bremer5027
Washington47211
Louisa43115
Delaware4233
Mahaska41519
Floyd3543
Jackson3523
Franklin35118
Lyon3514
Winneshiek3406
Clay3344
Hamilton3323
Benton3281
Winnebago31713
Hardin3071
Poweshiek3078
Buchanan2861
Jones2843
Kossuth2800
Butler2752
Emmet27010
Clarke2683
Shelby2681
Allamakee2666
Chickasaw2661
Sac2650
Clayton2633
Cherokee2552
Cedar2521
Guthrie2527
Harrison2523
Fayette2312
Madison2272
Grundy2243
Iowa2161
Palo Alto2050
Hancock1952
Howard1927
Humboldt1913
Mitchell1910
Calhoun1873
Mills1831
Page1710
Cass1692
Osceola1690
Pocahontas1652
Monona1601
Monroe16011
Lucas1566
Appanoose1423
Jefferson1391
Union1383
Taylor1321
Davis1274
Ida1261
Fremont1210
Van Buren1151
Keokuk1141
Worth1090
Greene1030
Montgomery975
Audubon871
Wayne872
Adair721
Decatur670
Ringgold532
Adams330
Unassigned140
Rochester
Few Clouds
51° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 51°
Mason City
Clear
49° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 45°
Albert Lea
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 54°
Austin
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 48°
Charles City
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 46°
Winds pick up for Wednesday
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events