How Trump’s Iraq visit sounded like a campaign rally

How Trump’s Iraq visit sounded like a campaign rally

Morale-boosting presidential visits to United States troops in war zones have been a longstanding tradition in the years following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

A bipartisan vote by the Iraqi Parliament is expected Thursday to expel U.S.troops from the country.

But President Trump did get the monkey off his back today with a "secret" trip to Iraq (the first lady in tow).

Qais Khazali, the head of the power Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, expressed confidence that parliament would vote to expel U.S. forces from Iraq.

"The continuation of the USA administration in dealing with the presence of its forces in Iraq in this way will push the Iraqis to use all means that ensure the removal of these forces and all foreign forces from Iraqi territory".

Trump told troops in Iraq that his choice to pull out of Syria is part of his "America first" agenda.

During his three-plus hours on the ground, Trump did not meet with any Iraqi officials, but spoke on the phone with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi.

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Supporters of the populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr won big in national elections in May, campaigning on a platform to curb USA and rival Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs.

Critics said the USA exit from Syria, the latest in Trump's increasingly isolationist-style foreign policy, would provide an opening for IS to regroup, give Iran a green light to expand its influence in the region and leave US -backed Kurdish forces vulnerable to attacks from Turkey.

Khazali was jailed by British and USA forces from 2007 to 2010 for managing sections of the Shia insurgency against the occupation during those years. Binaa favors close ties with Iran and is aligned with Tehran on regional political issues. But in November, after facing criticism for canceling a visit to a military cemetery in France because of rain, Trump announced he would soon travel to a war zone.

Trump's trip to Iraq was also a welcome distraction from his controversial shutdown of funding to public workers unless the US Congress agrees to spending $5bn (£4bn) on his wall on the Mexico border. But U.S./Iraq relations deteriorated considerably after that. Four militants were killed, according to the coalition.

Over the weekend, Defense Secretary James Mattis signed an order that tasked U.S. Central Command with developing a withdrawal plan, but there was no timetable associated with the order. USA companies have considerable interests in Iraq's petrochemical industry, and American diplomats are often brokers between Iraq's fractious political elite.

If it aided troop morale, there was no harm in this gesture other than its cost and the continuation of a long tradition of political exploitation of the US military.

According to two US officials, the current plan being presented to the military's chain of command calls for a withdrawal process that could take several months.

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