US Senate Opposes Plans For Abrupt Withdrawal Of Troops

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Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the chief of U.S. Central Command, who oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, will be asked direct questions about the planned withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan - including the risks involved - in testimony scheduled for Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Speaking to Lebanon's Arabic-language al-Mayadeen TV network, Jafaar Hussaini said US President Donald Trump can never think of any invasion against Iran from Iraqi soil.

Asked if that meant he wanted to be able to strike against Iran, Trump said, "No, because I want to be able to watch Iran".

Following Trump's secret visit to Iraq in December, political groups in the country have stepped up their efforts to persuade the parliament to stand against the presence of USA forces in the Arab country.

The troop withdrawals vote came as part of a broader debate over USA policy in the Middle East, and legislation that would specifically allow localities to refuse to do business with organizations that boycott Israel. The White House, however, said President Trump had not ordered the Pentagon to withdraw.

Iraq's president also rejected Trump's remarks, saying the USA does not have permission to use the country as a listening station. While the Kurds have proven themselves to be invaluable in the fight against ISIS in both Syria and Iraq, Turkey views all Kurds as terrorists because of the actions of an ethnically Kurdish militant group inside its own borders.

Opponents included every senator considering a 2020 presidential run, and four Republicans, who said US foreign policy needs a rethink.

Iraq is in a hard position as tensions between its two biggest allies, the United States and Iran, increase.

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Mr Saleh noted that under 2008 US-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement, Washington had agreed not to use Iraq "as a launching or transit point for attacks against other countries".

The Iraq Report is a weekly feature at The New Arab.

IS militants have lost territory since Trump's surprise announcement in December that he was pulling US forces out, but military officials warn the fighters could regroup within six months to a year after the Americans leave.

Trump also tasked the Pentagon late a year ago to start making plans for cutting the US force in Afghanistan in half. "It's hard to say because the Iraqi government is very fragmented".

Trump's latest remarks had made passing such a law "a national duty". "We're going to be watching, and watching closely". "We have very fast airplanes, we have very good cargo planes", he added. His "little serpent" reference was to Saddam Hussein, who was overthrown that year after the U.S. "At the same time, at a certain point, we want to bring our people back home".

On Monday, Iraqi President Barham Salih told a forum in Baghdad that Trump did not ask Iraq's permission for U.S. troops stationed there to "watch Iran".

The United States has pressured Iraq to wean itself off Iranian natural gas, which generates almost half of Iraq's electricity, with promises of us investment in the country's crumbling infrastructure.

Hassan al-Kaabi, the first deputy speaker of the Iraqi parliament, issued a statement Sunday saying parliament would work on a bill to end the presence of US troops in the country in its next session.

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