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President of Iraq Barham Ahmed Salih attends an audience with Pope Francis at the Apostolic Palace on November 24, 2018 in Vatican City, Vatican.

President of Iraq Barham Ahmed Salih attends an audience with Pope Francis at the Apostolic Palace on November 24, 2018 in Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo: Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Trump Says He Wants US Troops in Iraq to "Watch Iran." Iraqis' Response: Get Out

"Trump did not ask us to keep U.S. troops to watch Iran," says Iraqi president. "He didn't ask permission from Congress either," says one observer.

Andrea Germanos

Baghdad is firing back on Monday with calls to potentially boot U.S. troops out of Iraq in response to President Donald Trump's comments that he wants to keep them there to "watch Iran."

Speaking to CBS's "Face the Nation" in an interview that aired Sunday, Trump said he wants the continued military presence

because I want to be able to watch Iran. We have an unbelievable and expensive military base built in Iraq. It's perfectly situated for looking at all over different parts of the troubled Middle East rather than pulling up. And this is what a lot of people don't understand. We're going to keep watching and we're going to keep seeing and if there's trouble, if somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we're going to know it before they do.

But U.S. troops have no right to do that, said Iraqi President Barham Salih, adding that Trump's comments were "surprising."

"Trump did not ask us to keep U.S. troops to watch Iran," Salih said at a forum in Baghdad. The agreement between Washington and Baghdad is for the troops to combat terrorism, he said, and doing otherwise would be "unacceptable." 

"The Iraqi constitution rejects the use of Iraq as a base for hitting or attacking a neighboring country," he said.

"The U.S. is a major power ... but do not pursue your own policy priorities, we live here," he stated, and added, "It is of fundamental interest for Iraq to have good relations with Iran" and its other neighbors.

According to NPR, Trump's comments also sparked the ire of Iraq's main militias, who said they could push for a vote in parliament to kick out U.S. troops. The outlet also noted a "growing sentiment" held by Iraqis that U.S. troops should go.

In addition, Agence France-Pressse reports:

Sabah al-Saadi, a member of parliament in the bloc led by influential anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, has proposed a bill demanding a U.S. pullout.

Trump's latest remarks had made passing such a law "a national duty."

Deputy speaker of parliament Hassan Karim al-Kaabi, also close to Sadr, said they were a "new provocation," weeks after the U.S. president sparked outrage in Iraq by visiting U.S. troops at Ain al-Asad without meeting a single Iraqi official.

Former Iraq Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi‏ chimed in as well, writing on Twitter: "Iraqi sovereignty must be respected. Its interests should not be compromised. Iraq should not be used as a spring board to attack its neighbors. We are not proxies in conflicts outside the interests of our nation."

Other U.S. based foreign policy observers weighed in as well:


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