United States President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump on Wednesday paid a surprise visit to American troops in Iraq, reported The New York Times. After meeting the troops, Trump told reporters the US cannot be the policeman of the world, although he denied plans to pull out of Iraq.
This was Trump’s first visit to troops in a combat zone and comes amid his decision to withdraw US forces from Syria and Afghanistan. The Trumps met the troops at the Al Asad Air Base for around three hours, accompanied by National Security Adviser John Bolton. The US has around 5,000 troops in Iraq to support the government in its fight against the Islamic State group.
“If they want us to do the fighting, they also have to pay a price,” Trump said, according to CNN. “Sometimes that’s also a monetary price, so we’re not the suckers of the world. We’re no longer the suckers, folks. And people aren’t looking at us as suckers.”
He also defended his decision to pull US forces out of Syria. “I made it clear from the beginning that our mission in Syria was to strip ISIS [Islamic State group] of its military strongholds,” Al Jazeera quoted him as saying.
Trump said he gave officials multiple “extensions” to leave Syria, reported PTI. “They said again, recently, can we have more time? I said, ‘Nope,’” he said. “The United States cannot continue to be the policeman of the world. It’s not fair when the burden is all on us, the United States.”
Trump said his previous plans to visit Iraq were cancelled due to security reasons. “Pretty sad when you spend $7 trillion in the Middle East and going in has to be under this massive cover with planes all over and all of the greatest equipment in the world and you do everything to get in safely,” he said.
Trump did not meet any Iraqi officials during his visit. A planned meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi was cancelled and the two leaders spoke instead on the phone.
Mahdi’s office said there was “a disagreement over how to conduct the meeting”. White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said the meeting was cancelled due to security concerns and the short notice of the trip, but she said they had a “great call” and that Abdul Mahdi accepted Trump’s invitation to the White House next year.
Iraqi leaders condemned Trump’s unannounced visit to US troops in Iraq, Reuters reported. Sabah al Saadi, leader of the Al Islah parliamentary bloc, called for an emergency session of the Parliament “to discuss this blatant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and to stop these aggressive actions by Trump who should know his limits: The US occupation of Iraq is over.”
Iraqi leaders also said that Trump and Mahdi disagreed on where the meeting should take place – Trump asked to meet at the air base, while Mahdi declined the offer.