Pompeo Meets Top Iraqi Officials During Unannounced Visit to Baghdad

Pompeo Meets Top Iraqi Officials During Unannounced Visit to Baghdad

Trump, who drew bipartisan criticism over his abruptly announced plan to quit Syria, said us forces would be able to use Iraq as a base for regional operations against adversaries.

The comments raised eyebrows in the United States and overseas not the least because Trump himself is being criticized for his ambiguous plan announced last month to pull US troops out of Syria.

He then took another swipe at the 2015 Iran nuclear deal - from which the US withdrew previous year.

Iraqi analyst Hani Ashour, who teaches political science at Baghdad University, told Sky News Arabia that the "Iraqi parliament was due to debate US troop levels in Iraq Thursday, following protests by some political parties over fears the USA was moving troops it was withdrawing from Syria to Iraq".

Washington has repeatedly said its Kurdish allies will remain safe despite the withdrawal.

Turkey and the United States are now at loggerheads over the future of Syrian Kurdish forces, considered by Ankara as "terrorists", after the troop pullout.

National security adviser John Bolton, speaking in Israel on Sunday, said the administration would delay the withdrawal until Turkey assures the safety of Kurdish fighters and ISIS is defeated.

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The US will work with allies to "expel every last Iranian boot" from Syria, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says. "It is not possible for us to make compromises on this point", Erdogan said Tuesday in a speech to parliament.

"The president's decision to withdraw our folks from Syria in no way impacts our capacity to deliver on that", said the secretary of state, who later also met Jordan's King Abdullah II.

According to Bishara, Pompeo's approach was set at a low bar, with scant mention of Yemen - just half a line - despite the war in Yemen being a key issue in the Middle East.

Pompeo's visit to Baghdad was not listed on his official travel itinerary for security reasons and some reporters were excluded from attending the daylong excursion.

He cited accomplishments under Trump's leadership - including the pushback of Islamic State, the withdrawal of more troops and personnel from Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and building a coalition to push back against Iranian influence. Pompeo met senior Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Adil Adb al-Mahdi and President Barham Salih, whom he reassured that the United States was committed to not only defeating ISIS in the region, but making sure the terror group can not rebuild itself after the fighting stops.

Administration officials so far do not have a plan for what to do with the prisoners, according to a separate US official, who said that few countries have been willing to accept any of their captured citizens. But thousands returned to help the Baghdad government fight Islamic State, after the jihadist group seized swaths of the country in 2013 and 2014. Indeed, not long after he'd touched down, Erdogan canceled his meeting with the American envoy, branding Bolton's comments about preconditions for a USA withdrawal "a serious mistake". Islamic State militants are still waging insurgent attacks in the north of the country and trying to make a comeback, although they were driven from all towns and cities past year. "Today we ask those countries to take the next step in solidifying MESA", Pompeo said in a speech in Cairo during a Middle East tour.

Last week, Trump sparked further consternation in Israel when he said that Iran "can do what they want" in Syria, appearing to give Tehran free rein to further entrench itself in the country, though he also said Iran was pulling its forces out of the country. "We will raise those issues, and how to deal with regional issues altogether and deepen our economic and educational relations with the United States".

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