After Trump’s visit, Iraqi lawmakers demand U.S. withdrawal

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President Donald Trump speaks at Al Asad Airbase in Iraw. Photo via CBS News.
President Donald Trump speaks at Al Asad Airbase in Iraw. Photo via CBS News.

Iraqi lawmakers Thursday demanded U.S. forces leave the country in the wake of a surprise visit by President Donald Trump that politicians denounced as arrogant and a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

“Parliament must clearly and urgently express its view about the ongoing American violations of Iraqi sovereignty,” said Salam al-Shimiri, a lawmaker loyal to the populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Containing foreign influence has become a hot-button issue in a year that saw al-Sadr supporters win the largest share of votes in May elections. Al-Sadr has called for curbing U.S. and Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs.

U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq as part of the coalition against the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS). American forces withdrew in 2011 after invading in 2003 but returned in 2014 at the invitation of the Iraqi government to help fight the jihadist group. Now, after defeating ISIS militants in their last urban bastions last year, Iraqi politicians and militia leaders are speaking out against the continued presence of U.S. forces.

Qais Khazali, the head of the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia that fought key battles against ISIS in north Iraq, promised on Twitter that Parliament would vote to expel U.S. forces from Iraq, or the militia and others would force them out by “other means.”

Mr. Trump spent about three hours on the ground at a U.S. air base west of Baghdad Wednesday. Security was so tight the White House gave the Iraqi prime minister just two hours notice for a meeting with the president.

The prime minister couldn’t make it, so they settled for a phone call, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reported.

The prime minister’s office later said in a statement that “differences in points of view” over arrangements led to a face-to-face meeting between the two leaders being scrapped.

The unannounced visit came days after Mr. Trump ordered a pullout from Syria and fired Defense Secretary James Mattis after he had first resigned in protest.

While in Iraq, Mr. Trump insisted the decision to pull out of Syria was not as sudden as it seemed — that he had told the military to get out a year and a half ago but kept giving in to their requests to stay another six months.

“And they said again recently, ‘Can we have more time?’ and I said, ‘Nope, you can’t have anymore time. You got enough time,'” the president said.

He said there are “no plans at all” to pull out of Iraq.

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