The highest Shia cleric in Iraq rejected on Wednesday the notion of turning Iraq into a platform to monitor or harm other countries. Ayatollah Ali Sistani made his comment during a meeting with the special representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, in the city of Najaf.
“Iraq aspires to have good and balanced relations with all neighbouring countries and other peace-loving governments on the basis of common interests, without interfering in their internal affairs or undermining their sovereignty and independence,” Sistani insisted. He was responding to remarks by US President Donald Trump that the US should maintain a base in Iraq to keep an eye on neighbouring Iran.
“We spent a fortune on building this incredible base, we might as well keep it,” Trump told CBS last Sunday. “And one of the reasons I want to keep it is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran.”
On Monday, Iraqi President Barham Salih slammed the US President’s comments. “The Iraqi constitution rejects the use of Iraq as a base for hitting or attacking a neighbouring country,” he pointed out before calling on Washington to clarify the mission of its forces in the country.
As many as 55 Iraqi lawmakers responded to Trump by filing a request to the parliamentary speaker to enact a law requiring US forces to withdraw from the country.
Some 5,000 US troops are deployed in Iraq as part of a US-led coalition formed in 2014 to fight Daesh extremists.