Pompeo Talks Iran With Iraqi Officials on Surprise Stop in Baghdad

The trip comes amid confusion over conflicting statements by Trump and senior U.S. officials about a planned troop withdrawal from Syria

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is welcomed by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman upon his arrival in Baghdad, Iraq, January 9, 2019.
AFP

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Iraq on Wednesday in an unannounced stop on his Middle East tour meant to promote the White House's hard-line position on Iran.

The trip comes amid confusion over conflicting statements by President Donald Trump and senior U.S. officials about a planned U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria, where Iran is backing Syrian President Bashar Assad in that country's civil war.

In Baghdad, Pompeo met with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, President Barham Salih, Foreign Minister Mohamed Alhakim and Parliament Speaker Mohamed al-Halbousi. Pompeo and the Iraqi officials made no statements to the media.

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In Jordan on Tuesday, Pompeo said the pullout would not detract from U.S. efforts to marginalize Iran. The White House reinstated sanctions against Iran last year for allegedly violating the 2015 nuclear deal championed by former U.S. President Barack Obama. International nuclear inspectors had said there was no evidence that Iran was violating the deal.

Pompeo's visit is the third high-profile visit by an American official to Iraq in the last month. Iraqi politicians were incensed when Trump last month made an unscheduled visit to a U.S. base in western Iraq without also meeting Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, as his predecessors Obama and George W. Bush had done.

Trump said on his December 26 visit that the United States could use its bases in Iraq as a platform for continued operations against the Islamic State in Syria.

The visit left lawmakers smarting and prompted calls to annul the 2014 agreement that brought U.S. forces back to Iraq. Some 5,200 U.S. troops are now stationed in the country.

Earlier in December, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry urged Iraq to sever its energy dependence on Iran and open its energy sector to American investment. He was in Baghdad with a trade delegation arranged by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Pompeo was expected in Cairo later on Wednesday.