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Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi (Twitter)
Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi tells the US defense chief that Iraq will accept no foreign military bases on its soil, and that the Arab country does not take dictates from outsiders.
In a meeting with acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan in Baghdad on Tuesday, Abdul-Mahdi said that Baghdad-Washington relations must be based on the “basic agreements” existing between the two sides, which merely deal with fighting terrorism and training Iraqi forces, and “nothing else,” the Iraqi News reported.
Iraq makes “independent” decisions and will not be affected by any foreign pressure or dictates, he noted, reiterating Baghdad’s objection to the presence of any foreign military bases on Iraqi soil.
Abdul-Mahdi also hailed Iraq’s achievements in restoring stability to the country after defeating the Takfiri ISIS terrorist group, urging international support for the ongoing reconstruction process.
The premier said Iraq was open to relations with Arab and regional countries and was keen to promote cooperation with them in line with its nation’s interests.
ISIS unleashed a campaign of death and destruction in Iraq in 2014, overrunning vast swathes in lightning attacks. Iraqi army soldiers and allied fighters then launched operations to eliminate the terror outfit and retake lost territory.
Iraq finally declared the end of its anti-ISIS campaign, which had Iran’s military advisory support, in December 2017.
The US, however, has kept up its military presence in the Arab country.
US President Donald Trump sparked a wave of condemnations in Iraq earlier this month, when he said he wanted to keep US troops in Iraq in order to keep a close eye on Iran.
Abdul-Mahdi censured Trump’s comments on February 5 and said his country cannot be used for action against others. Iraq’s most senior Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani also said Iraq rejects serving as a launching pad to harm any other country.
The American president had earlier raised the ire of Iraqis by making a surprise visit in late December to the US forces deployed to the Anbar Province, with no stop in Baghdad, prompting calls for the expulsion of US troops.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the top Pentagon official, for his part, said that his visit to Iraq was aimed at “listening to the Iraqi government’s vision on the nature and future of relations between the two countries.”
He also claimed that American forces in Iraq are mainly tasked with combating ISIS and providing Iraqi forces with training to eliminate terrorist remnants.
Speaking to reporters after flying from Baghdad to Brussels, Shanahan said that he had assured Iraqi leaders that the US will stick to what he called a limited military role there.
“I wanted to make clear to him (Abdul-Mahdi) that we recognize our role,” he said. “We understand that we’re there by invitation, and that we jointly share the resources and that we clearly recognize their sovereignty.”
Shanahan further pointed out that he had not raised the possibility of moving additional US troops to Iraq to offset the planned Syria withdrawal.
The US, backed by the UK, invaded Iraq in 2003 claiming that the former regime of Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.
No such weapons, however, were ever found, and the invaders withdrew from Iraq, after nearly nine years of a military campaign that cost tens of thousands of Iraqi lives.
Leading a new coalition of its allies, the US returned to Iraq in 2014 under the pretext of fighting ISIS, but reports say Washington-led operations led to civilian deaths and inflicted damage on Iraqi infrastructure.
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