Appearing Pentagon chief reassures Iraqis after anger over Trump remarks

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Appearing U.S. defence chief Patrick Shanahan advised Iraqi leaders that Washington understood its forces have been in Iraq at Baghdad’s invitation, aiming to regular relations after President Donald Trump mentioned U.S. troops have been wanted to control Iran.

Shanahan met Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi throughout an unannounced journey to Baghdad on Tuesday.

“I made very clear that we recognise their sovereignty, their deal with independence and that we’re there on the invitation of the federal government,” Shanahan advised reporters.

Trump infuriated Iraqi politicians this month by saying {that a} U.S. presence was wanted in Iraq to watch Iran. Washington, which occupied Iraq from 2003-2011, now has round 5,200 troops in Iraq on the request of the Baghdad authorities to assist battle in opposition to Islamic State.

Iraq is an ally of each america and Iran, and its politics are sometimes dominated by efforts to steadiness relations with two highly effective international locations which can be bitter enemies.

Trump’s suggestion that Iran was the goal of the U.S. presence in Iraq was denounced throughout the political spectrum in Baghdad final week, together with by Abdul Mahdi. President Barham Salih mentioned the U.S. troops should stick with their anti-Islamic State mission; Iran-aligned politicians in Iraq’s parliament pressed calls for that the U.S. mission be scaled again.

The uproar got here simply months after Trump angered Iraqi leaders on his solely go to to the nation to date. On the day after Christmas Trump stopped solely at a U.S. air base within the distant desert. Not like predecessors Barack Obama and George W. Bush, he skipped the capital Baghdad and met no Iraqi officers.

Appearing U.S. protection secretary Patrick Shanahan arrives in Kabul, Afghanistan February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Idrees Ali

Shanahan mentioned the subject of U.S. troops in Iraq and Trump’s Iran feedback didn’t come up throughout his talks with Abdul Mahdi, however the prime minister advised him that Iraq wanted to keep up sturdy relations with each Washington and Tehran.

“There may be exercise of their legislature… the discussions have been ought to they prohibit the variety of U.S. forces in Iraq and I wished to clarify to (Abdul Mahdi) that we recognise our function, we perceive that we’re there by invitation,” Shanahan mentioned.

Talking after assembly with Shanahan, Abdul Mahdi mentioned he revered the choices of the parliament.

“The federal government has its view and the political blocs have theirs,” he mentioned.


U.S. officers have criss-crossed the Center East in current months to reassure allies that Washington stays dedicated to the area, after Trump introduced in December that he would abruptly withdraw the two,000 U.S. troops from Syria.

That call was opposed by prime aides, together with Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, who give up, leaving his deputy Shanahan in control of the Pentagon.

FILE PHOTO: Appearing U.S. Secretary of Protection Patrick Shanahan speaks in the course of the Missile Protection Evaluation announcement on the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque//File Picture

Shanahan met with U.S. army commanders whereas in Iraq to get an replace on the battle in opposition to Islamic State. U.S.-backed fighters have mounted an assault in opposition to Islamic State’s final bastion in jap Syria.

U.S. officers have lengthy estimated that the Syria pullout may take till someday in March or April to execute totally, however have been reluctant to set an actual timeline given hard-to-predict battlefield circumstances.

Islamic State was declared defeated in Iraq in 2017, however continues to wage small-scale rebel assaults in some areas.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; Further reporting by Muayad Hameed; Enhancing by John Stonestreet and Peter Graff

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