Trump wants USA military in Iraq to 'watch Iran'

31 2019 US President Donald Trump speaks before a meeting between US and Chinese officials in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC. — AFP

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

Trump also said he plans to transfer some of the American troops stationed in Syria to Iraq.

His remarks came after Trump told CBS News on Sunday that one of the reasons he wants to keep a United States military base is "to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem".

He also said the USA isn't really leaving because they will maintain the base in Iraq - "a fantastic edifice". "We might as well keep it". He said they would be tasked with "looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem".

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

This is not the first time an Iraqi lawmaker has called for the withdrawal of USA troops. Last week, many top GOP senators voiced concern after Trump called the heads of his own intelligence agencies "naive" for contradicting him about the threats North Korea and the Islamic State pose to the U.S.

Former Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken said Trump's statement was "probably the worst way to get the Iraqis to actually support us keeping some kind of presence in Iraq". A USA -led coalition provided crucial air support as Iraqi forces regrouped and drove IS out in a costly three-year campaign.

U.S. forces invaded Iraq in 2003, and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein.

"If somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we're going to know it before they do", he said in the interview aired on Sunday. The outlet also noted a "growing sentiment" held by Iraqis that US troops should go.

In the CBS interview Mr Trump defended his recent decision to withdraw the 2,000 U.S. troops deployed in neighbouring Syria to support a Kurdish-led militia alliance seeking to capture the last pocket of IS territory there.

"Challenges to completely defeating ISIS in Iraq include the group's rural strength, its tunnels and safe houses, the continued trickle of foreign fighters, the difficulty in securing the Iraq-Syria border, and the lack of stability in Sunni areas", the report said.

"My intelligence people, if they said in fact that Iran is a wonderful kindergarten, I disagree with them 100 percent". Iraq should not be used as a spring board to attack its neighbors.

Meanwhile, the USA military officials in charge of running the war against ISIS said the group remains a "potent force of battle-hardened and well-disciplined fighters" that "could likely resurge in Syria", according to the Inspector General report. The base hosts American troops but belongs to the Iraqi army. "We are not proxies in conflicts outside the interests of our nation", he wrote in a Twitter post.

"If the United States is perceived as being in Iraq not exclusively to assist the Iraqi forces in [the] fight against ISIS, it will strengthen the hand of those who oppose the U.S. presence", said David Witty, a retired USA special forces colonel.

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