IraqMiddle East

Officials in Iraq slam Trump’s unannounced visit to base

US President Donald Trump’s unannounced visit to Iraq has sparked a wave of condemnations from the Arab country’s political and military leaders, with some of them demanding the expulsion of American forces.

Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, an Iraqi Shia group, said that the presence of US troops breached the sovereignty of Iraq.

“Trump must be aware that Iraq’s sovereignty came with blood, not the building of bases in this country of resistance and martyrs. The government has a duty to expel US troops as a violation of the country’s sovereignty,” Nujaba spokesman Hashim al-Mousawi told Lebanon-based al-Mayadeen television channel.

The Kata’ib Hezbollah group also stressed that the resistance front would make the US withdraw its forces from Iraq, adding that the fact that Trump made a surprise trip meant that “he does not feel safe announcing his visit to Iraq.”

“The decision to withdraw US troops belongs to the will of the people and its parliament; the resistance will force the United States to withdraw its troops from Iraq,” the group’s spokesman Jafar al-Hussaini told al-Mayadeen.

“Leaders in the Iraqi resistance vowed to cut the hand that extends to neighboring countries including Syria,” he added.

On Wednesday, Trump spent a few hours at al-Asad Air Base in Iraq’s western Anbar Province but did not visit Baghdad. It was Trump’s first visit to troops in a war zone since becoming president.

He acknowledged security concerns about visiting Iraq, saying it was “pretty sad” that he needed such secrecy to see US troops.

“Pretty sad when you spend $7 trillion in the Middle East, and going in has to be under this massive cover with planes all over and all of the greatest equipment in the world, and you do everything to get in safely,” he said.

A scheduled meeting between Trump and Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi was scrapped and they only talked over phone.

Abdul-Mahdi’s office said in a statement that the cancellation came as a result of “disagreement over how to conduct the meeting.”

The US, backed by the UK, invaded Iraq in 2003 under the pretext that the former regime of Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons, however, were ever found in the country.

The invasion led to the rise of terrorist groups such as Daesh.

The US and a coalition of its allies further launched a military campaign against purported Daesh targets in Iraq in 2014, but their operations have in many instances led to civilian deaths.

Qais al-Khazali, the leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq group, expressed the Iraqis’ resolve to purge the country of American forces.

“Iraqis will respond with a parliamentary decision to oust your (US) military forces. And if they do not leave, we have the experience and the ability to remove them by other means that your forces are familiar with,” he tweeted.

Sabah al-Saadi, the leader of the Islah parliamentary bloc, also called for an emergency session of the parliament “to discuss this blatant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and to stop these aggressive actions by Trump who should know his limits: The US occupation of Iraq is over.”

Similarly, the Bina parliamentary bloc denounced Trump’s trip to Iraq, saying, it was “a flagrant and clear violation of diplomatic norms and shows his disdain and hostility in his dealings with the Iraqi government.”

Meanwhile, on Thursday, an explosion was reportedly heard in Baghdad’s Green Zone, where the US Embassy and many other foreign diplomatic missions are located.

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