Donald Trump makes surprise visit to United States troops in Iraq

Sheila Mcguire
December 28, 2018

Iraqi lawmakers have demanded United States forces leave the country in the wake of a surprise visit by Donald Trump, which politicians denounced as arrogant and a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

President Trump spoke with Iraqi prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi before his visit, but they could not come to an agreement on a meeting, due to some sort of disagreement over where the meeting would take place.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Abdul-Mahdi accepted Trump's invitation to the White House during their call, though the Prime Minister's office has so far refused to confirm that.

Morale-boosting presidential visits to USA troops in war zones have been a longstanding tradition in the years following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

And in US relations with Russia, Trump has resisted senators' demands to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin and condemn Russian intervention in Ukraine, while succumbing to political pressure to sign sanctions against the nation. We've knocked them out.

After the brief visit, when Air Force One had left Iraqi airspace, Trump posted a video on his Twitter feed.

The head of the pro-Iran Asaib Ahl al-Haq group, Qais al-Khazali, tweeted that "Trump's visit to a U.S. military base without regard for diplomatic norms reveals the reality of the American project in Iraq".

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The POTUS made it clear that he doesn't want his country to remain "the policeman of the world" and described the US' worldwide military presence as "ridiculous".

Still, the USA and Iraq developed considerable military and intelligence ties in the war against IS, and they continue to pay dividends in operations against militants gone into hiding.

But Iran's growing influence in the country has worked to diminish pro-US sentiments and pro-Tehran groups now make up a key bloc in the Iraqi parliament.

Trump speaks to USA troops in an unannounced visit to the Al-Asad Air Base in Iraq on December 26. "You did it by revealing their identities and locations on social media", wrote one user. Does anybody here? Is anybody here willing to give up the big pay raise you just got?

Trump has also taken criticism from France and other foreign partners as well as senior figures in his own Republican party.

"We're no longer the suckers, folks", Trump told USA servicemen and women at al-Asad Airbase in western Iraq, about 100 miles or 60 kilometres west of Baghdad. IS has lost a significant amount of territory in Iraq and Syria but is still seen as a threat.

During a speech to troops at Al Asad base, he said that unlike in Syria, he had no plans to bring home the roughly 5,000 troops stationed in Iraq.

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Though this hasn't happened, the announced United States pullout seems to have taken Iraq by surprise. It's not clear how serious this possibility is.

A hasty departure of US forces would jeopardize such arrangements, said Iraqi analyst Hamza Mustafa.

The Iraq trip provided some distraction from a rising tide of domestic political problems, including a government shutdown caused by Trump's row with the US Congress over funding for a US-Mexico border wall.

Donald Trump and Melania Trump greeting U.S. troops in Iraq.

Pressure is also mounting from a series of criminal probes into Trump's finances and links to Russian Federation.

According to the pool report of the event, held in a dining hall at the base, a man called Kyu Lee told Trump he was the chaplain for SEAL Team Five.

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After departing for the US, Trump stopped over at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where he and Melania shook hands and greeted some of the hundreds of troops gathered in a hangar.

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