Iraqi president says U.S. has no right to ‘watch Iran’ from his country

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By Saphora Smith

U.S. troops do not have the right to use Iraq to “watch Iran,” Iraqi President Barham Salih said on Monday after Donald Trump indicated American forces were there to do just that.

“We are surprised by the statements made by the U.S. president on the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq,” Salih said at a forum in Baghdad. “Trump did not ask us to keep U.S. troops to watch Iran.”

In an interview that aired Sunday, Trump said it was important to keep a military presence in Iraq so Washington could keep on eye on neighboring Iran.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Iraq’s President Barham Saleh in Baghdad, Iraq, during a Middle East tour in January. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / Reuters file

The Iraqi president said U.S. troops had no right to monitor Iran under the agreement between the two nations, and that their specific mission was to combat terrorism, according to Reuters. He added that he would wait for clarifications from Washington on the numbers and nature of the U.S. troops’ mission in his country.

“Those forces do not have the right to monitor many things, including watching Iran. We will not allow this,” he added.

Trump’s tough stance toward Iran is a hallmark his foreign policy. Since pulling out of the landmark Iran nuclear deal agreed by predecessor Barack Obama, Trump has publicly shown an uncompromising attitude toward Iran and reimposed sanctions on the country.

In an interview with CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” Trump said the U.S. had spent a “fortune” on the Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq, which he visited in December, and that it was “perfectly situated” to watch different parts of the Middle East.

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