In an interview that aired on CBS’ “Face the Nation” this past Sunday, President Donald Trump suggested that American troops stationed in Iraq had a very specific mission to carry out — but the comments Trump made justifying the continued military presence in Iraq was immediately contradicted by that nation’s leader the following day.
Trump had said in his interview that aired over the weekend that the troops stationed in Iraq were there to keep an eye on Iraq’s neighbor to its immediate west, Iran, according to reporting from the New York Times.
“I want to be able to watch Iran,” Trump said. “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.”
Trump says he'll keep US troops in Iraq in order to watch Iran nuclear program (!!)
— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) February 3, 2019
Iraqi President Barham Salih disagreed with those assertions, suggesting that it was important the two nations got along with one another. He also suggested that Trump did not ask permission to keep troops in Iraq based on the assumption that it was to watch activities in Tehran.
“It is of fundamental interest for Iraq to have good relations with Iran,” Salih said.
According to reporting from Reuters, Salih added that American troops remained in Iraq to combat terrorism in the region, not for any strategic purposes having to do with his country’s neighbors.
Salih further chastised Trump for getting it wrong.
“Don’t overburden Iraq with your own issues,” the Iraqi president said in comments directed toward Trump. “The U.S. is a major power… but do not pursue your own policy priorities, we live here.”
Last year, Trump withdrew the U.S. from a nuclear deal with Iran, calling the international agreement that included the European Union “decaying and rotten,” per reporting from the BBC. That deal would have allowed for inspections of Iran’s nuclear bases to ensure that they were being used for energy, not weaponry, purposes.