Iraqis demand US troop pullout

After visiting American troops in Iraq, Trump left the country without meeting any Iraqi officials. (AFP)
Updated 28 December 2018
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Iraqis demand US troop pullout

  • Iraqi politicians told Arab News the visit was not coordinated with the government
  • “The visit of the US president … is a violation of diplomatic norms and clear evidence of US disregard for international laws that bind states together”: Iraqi MP

BAGHDAD: Iraqi political parties have demanded the withdrawal of US troops from their country hours after a “surprise” visit by Donald Trump to American forces based there.

The US president and his wife Melania flew  into Al-Asad military base in Anbar province on Wednesday, where he stayed for three hours but did not meet Iraqi officials. 

Iraqi politicians told Arab News the visit was not coordinated with the government and many considered the trip an insult and a “flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty.”

Several Shiite leaders said they would respond by attempting to mobilize enough support to vote on a law that compels the Iraqi government to expel US troops. Some armed factions threatened to target the US troops if Washington refused to withdraw them.

“The visit of the US president … is a violation of diplomatic norms and clear evidence of US disregard for international laws that bind states together,” Salam Al-Shimiri, an MP  from the Reform parliamentary bloc led by cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, said on Thursday.

“The Parliament which is the legitimate representative of all Iraqis, must express a clear and rapid position related to the ongoing violations of Iraqi sovereignty that have been committed by the American side.”

Qais Al-Khazali, commander of Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, one of the most powerful factions backed by Iran who led several attacks against US, troops in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, said Iraqis’ response to the visit will be voting in Parliament on legislation to expel American forces.

“If your troops do not come out, we have the experience and the ability to push them out,” Khazali wrote on Twitter.

Trump’s visit was his first to US troops in Iraq. George W. Bush and Barack Obama made similar visits, which were covert but included meetings with Iraqi officials. The then Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki met Obama at the Victory Base, near Baghdad Airport in 2009.

During his visit, Trump thanked US troops for their efforts in fighting terrorism. He arrived at an airport in Jordan before moving on to Al-Asad in a military helicopter. Phone and internet networks were blocked in the region during the visit, military sources said.

The Iraqi government said it was aware of the visit, which was aimed at “congratulating the new Iraqi government and visiting the US military within the international coalition forces.”

The office of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said a formal meeting was supposed to take place between the two leaders, “but the divergence of views related to the arrangements led to replacing the meeting with a phone call.”

An agreement signed between Iraq and the US in 2011 required the Iraqi government’s prior permission be obtained for  any visits by US officials to forces present in Iraq. 

Iraqi officials familiar with security procedures related to similar visits told Arab News that any aircraft flying in Iraqi airspace, whether military or civilian, needs to coordinate with Iraqi aviation authorities to ensure a safe air route. 

Sources close to Abdul Mahdi told media that Trump had called Abdul Mahdi and asked to meet him at the base, but the Iraqi prime minister refused. “All things indicate that Trump contacted Abdul Mahdi after he arrived at the base not before it, so Abdul Mahdi refused his invitation to meet him there because he wanted an official visit under the protocol, not a visit going in the dark,” a senior Iraqi official close to the prime minister told Arab News.


US sanctions target Iranians’ access to food, medicine: foreign minister

Updated 8 min 32 sec ago

US sanctions target Iranians’ access to food, medicine: foreign minister

  • The United States on Friday imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran
  • Unconfirmed reports on social media said a number of Iranian websites were under a cyberattack

DUBAI: Iran’s foreign minister on Saturday denounced renewed US sanctions against its central bank as an attempt to deny ordinary Iranians access to food and medicine, and said the move was a sign of US desperation.
The United States on Friday imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran, some aimed at its central bank and sovereign wealth fund, following attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia that Riyadh and US officials have blamed on Iran.
Iran denies involvement in the attacks, which initially halved oil output from Saudi Arabia. Responsibility was claimed by Yemen’s Houthi movement, an Iranian-aligned group fighting a Saudi-led alliance in Yemen’s civil war.
“This is a sign of US desperation ... When they repeatedly sanction the same institution, this means their attempt at bringing the Iranian nation to its knees under ‘maximum pressure’ has failed,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters in remarks shown on state television.
“But this is dangerous and unacceptable as an attempt at blocking ... the Iranian people’s access to food and medicine,” Zarif said, speaking after arriving in New York for the annual UN General Assembly next week.
Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports on social media said a number of Iranian websites — including those of some petrochemical firms — were under a cyberattack. There was no immediate official comment, and the websites of the main state oil company NIOC appeared to be functioning normally. Residents said their Internet access was not affected.
The fresh sanctions target the Central Bank of Iran, which was already under other US sanctions, the National Development Fund of Iran — the country’s sovereign wealth fund — and an Iranian company that US officials say is used to conceal financial transfers for Iranian military purchases.
Zarif said he would meet on Wednesday with foreign ministers of the remaining signatories to the 2015 nuclear accord, which was agreed with Britain, France, Germany China and Russia as well as the United States.
“As we have said before, the United States can only attend if it returns to the (nuclear accord) ... and ends its economic war against Iran,” Zarif said.
The United States withdrew from the accord last year and re-imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran.
“I hope the US government realizes that they are no longer the only economic superpower in the world and that there are many countries that want to benefit from the Iranian market,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, according to state media.