Iraq’s president says Donald Trump did not ask permission to station US troops there to “watch Iran”.
It follows an interview in which the US president said America had “spent a fortune” on building a military base in Iraq and “one of the reasons I want to keep it is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem”.
Mr Trump was answering questions on his commitment to reduce US military presence in the Middle East.
When asked if he was keeping troops in Iraq because he wanted to launch a strike against Iran, Mr Trump said: “No, because I want to be able to watch Iran. All I want to do is be able to watch.
“We have an unbelievable and expensive military base built in Iraq. It’s perfectly situated for looking at all over different parts of the troubled Middle East.
“Rather than pulling up, and this is what a lot of people don’t understand, we’re going to keep watching.”
But President Barham Salih said Mr Trump did not ask Iraq’s permission to carry out such monitoring.
Speaking at a forum in Baghdad, Mr Salih said US troops were in Iraq as part of an agreement between the two countries with a specific mission of combating terrorism – and that they should stick to that.
Mr Salih said: “Don’t overburden Iraq with your own issues. The US 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.
Mr Salih added: “It is of fundamental interest for Iraq to have good relations with Iran and other neighbouring countries.”