Iraqi lawmakers Thursday demanded U.S. forces leave the country following a surprise visit by President Donald Trump that politicians denounced as arrogant and a violation of national sovereignty.
Trump’s trip to U.S. servicemen and women at al-Asad Airbase in western Iraq on Wednesday was unannounced and the subject of extreme security, which is routine for presidential visits to conflict regions. But it came at a time when containing foreign influence has become a hot-button issue in Iraqi politics, and it provoked vociferous backlash.
Iraqi lawmakers were smarting after the U.S. president left three hours after he arrived without meeting any officials, drawing unfavorable comparisons to the occupation of Iraq after the 2003 invasion.
“Trump needs to know his limits. The American occupation of Iraq is over,” said Sabah al-Saidi, the head of one of two main blocs in Iraq’s parliament.
Trump, al-Saidi added, had slipped into Iraq, “as though Iraq is a state of the United States.”
While Trump didn’t meet with any officials, he spoke with Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi by phone after a “difference in points of view” over arrangements led to a face-to-face meeting between the two leaders to be scrapped, according to the prime minister’s office.
The visit could have unintended consequences for American policy, with officials from both sides of Iraq’s political divide calling for a vote in Parliament to expel U.S. forces from the country.
The president, who kept to the U.S. air base approximately 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Baghdad, said he had no plans to withdraw the 5,200 troops in the country. He said Ain al-Asad could be used for U.S. air strikes inside Syria following his announcement last week to withdraw U.S. troops from there.
The suggestion ran counter to the current sentiment of Iraqi politics, which favors claiming sovereignty over foreign and domestic policy and staying above the fray in regional conflicts.
“Iraq should not be a platform for the Americans to settle their accounts with either the Russians or the Iranians in the region,” said Hakim al-Zamili, a senior lawmaker in al-Saidi’s Islah bloc in Parliament.