BAGHDAD — Iraqi lawmakers are seizing on President Donald Trump’s surprise visit to demand U.S. forces leave the country.
Politicians from both sides of Iraq’s political divide are calling on parliament to vote to expel U.S. troops. Approximately 5,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq as part of the coalition against the Islamic State group.
Trump’s previously unannounced trip came at a time of change in the region following the president’s announcement earlier this month that he will withdraw American troops from Syria — a heavily criticized move that prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
Trump said on Wednesday that he had “no plans at all” to remove U.S. forces from Iraq, while defending his decision to pull them out of Syria.
“I think a lot of people are going to come around to my way of thinking. It’s time for us to start using our head,” Trump said.
Trump spent three hours at the U.S. air base about 100 miles west of the capital Baghdad meeting with American troops on an unannounced visit Wednesday. He left without meeting any Iraqi officials but spoke on the phone with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi.
Foreign influence has become a hot-button issue in, Iraq in a year that saw supporters of populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr win the largest share of votes in May elections. Al-Sadr has called for curbing U.S. and Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs.
Lawmakers decried the visit as arrogant and a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.
Hassan al-Kabi, the first deputy speaker of parliament, issued a statement calling for an urgent session to be held to discuss the issue.