Trump Did Not Ask Permission to 'Watch Iran,' Iraqi President Says

Barham Salih tells U.S. president not to 'overburden Iraq with your own issues'

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump greet U.S. troops in Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, December 26, 2018.
Reuters

Iraqi President Barham Salih said on Monday that U.S. President Donald Trump did not ask Iraq's permission for U.S. troops stationed there to "watch Iran." 

Speaking at a forum in Baghdad, Salih was responding to a question about Trump's comments to CBS, in which Trump stated that he plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq because of its vantage point over neighboring Iran.

"Don't overburden Iraq with your own issues," Salih said. "The U.S. is a major power ... but do not pursue your own policy priorities, we live here." 

Iraq is in a difficult position as tensions between its two biggest allies, the United States and Iran, increase. 

U.S. troops in Iraq are there as part of an agreement between the two countries with a specific mission of combating terrorism, Salih said.

"It is of fundamental interest for Iraq to have good relations with Iran" and other neighbouring countries, Salih said. 

According to Trump, Iraq is "perfectly situated for looking at all over different parts of the troubled Middle East rather than pulling up."

"We're going to keep watching and we're going to keep seeing and if there's trouble," he continued. "If somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we're going to know it before they do."

Trump's comments come amid a U.S. withdrawal from Syria and a draw down from Afghanistan, which the Republican-led U.S. Senate rebuked last week.

The Senate voted 68-23 in favor of a non-binding amendment, drafted by Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, warning against withdrawing prematurely from the two countries. McConnel stated that Islamic militant groups in Syria and Afghanistan continue to pose a "serious threat" to the United States.