Iran’s leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged Iraq on Saturday to demand U.S. troops leave its soil “as soon as possible.” The call came after a visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi intended to enhance Tehran’s influence with its neighboring Arab country.
The website of the Iranian supreme leader quotes him as telling Abdul-Mahdi that Iraq’s government should take measures to remove American forces quickly. He says the longer the U.S. forces are there, the more difficult it will be to remove them:
You must make sure that the Americans withdraw their troops from Iraq as soon as possible because expelling them has become difficult whenever they have had a long military presence in a country.
The Iraqi government, parliament and current political activists in the country are undesirable for the Americans … and they are plotting to remove them from Iraqi politics.
Some 5,200 troops are stationed in Iraq as part of a security agreement with the Iraqi government to advise, assist and support the country’s troops in the fight against Islamic State influence.
Tehran sees the U.S. military presence at its doorstep in Iraq as a threat — one that could also undermine Iran’s sway over Baghdad.
During Abdul Mahdi’s visit, President Rouhani called for Iran and Iraq to expand their gas and electricity dealings and boost bilateral trade to $20 billion.
“The plans to export electricity and gas and hopefully oil continue and we are ready to expand these contacts not only for the two countries but also for other countries in the region,” Rouhani said in remarks carried by state TV.
Rouhani also hailed Iran and Iraq’s shared stance on regional issues including Israel.
“We hold common viewpoints on Al-Quds [Jerusalem] being the permanent capital of Palestine, Golan being an inseparable part of Syria and that the war in Yemen should finish soon and that the solution to the Yemeni crisis should be a political one,” he said.
The leader added that the two countries “agreed upon the necessity of peace and stability in the entire region”.
Washington has previously criticized the Iraqi government for refusing to comply with a second round of U.S. economic sanctions targeting Iran’s crucial energy, shipping and banking sectors, as Breitbart News reported.
Iraq has also drawn rebukes for tolerating the existence of pro-Iraq militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) which are helping are helping Iran expand its activities inside the country.
AP contributed to this report
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