Iraq’s most senior Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has fiercely criticized the latest statement by US President Donald Trump that American forces must remain in Iraq so Washington can keep a close eye on neighboring Iran.
During a meeting with the special representative for Iraq and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaer, in the holy shrine city of Najaf on Wednesday, Ayatollah Sistani said Iraq rejects serving as a launching pad to harm any other country.
He noted that Iraq aspires to have good and balanced relations with all neighboring countries, without interference in their internal affairs.
The remarks came a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi strongly condemned Trump’s comments, stressing that his country will not accept being used for any acts of aggression against other states.
Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi says Iraq will not accept being used for any acts of aggression against other countries.
On Monday, Iraqi President Barham Salih hit back at the US president, saying, “The Iraqi constitution rejects the use of Iraq as a base for hitting or attacking a neighboring country.”
He said Trump did not ask Iraq’s permission for US troops stationed there to “watch Iran.”
In an interview with CBS television network broadcast on Sunday, Trump highlighted the importance of a military base in Iraq, saying it was crucial to the surveillance of Iran’s activities.
“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” he said in an apparent reference to Ayn al-Asad Airbase in western Iraq, which he paid a visit to during an unannounced trip to the country last December.
When asked whether he planned to use US forces in Iraq to “strike” Iran, Trump responded, “No… all I want to do is be able to watch.”