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Iraqi lawmakers demand US withdrawal after Trump visit

BAGHDAD — Iraqi lawmakers Thursday demanded US forces leave the country following a surprise visit by President Trump that politicians denounced as arrogant and a violation of national sovereignty.

Trump’s trip to US 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 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, 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 US forces from the country.

The president, who kept to the US air base approximately 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 US air- strikes inside Syria following his announcement last week to withdraw US 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 Saidi’s Islah bloc.

US troops are stationed in Iraq as part of the coalition against the Islamic State group. American forces withdrew in 2011 after invading in 2003 but returned in 2014 at the invitation of the Iraqi government to help fight the jihadist group. Trump’s visit was the first by a US president since Barack Obama met with then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at a US base outside Baghdad in 2009.

Still, after defeating militants in their last urban bastions last year, Iraqi politicians and militia leaders are speaking out against the continued presence of US forces on Iraqi soil.