Iraqi Leaders Denounce Trump over Oil, Jerusalem; US Troops in Political Crossfire

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Since his inauguration, Donald J. Trump has not been making a good impression in Iraq, where the US has 6,000 troops, according to al-Zaman (The Times) of Baghdad.

The prime minister has forcefully rejected Trump’s talk of “taking Iraqi oil.” And the Shiite clerical leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, has taken on Trump over his plan to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

The pan-Arab London daily al-Hayat (Life) reports that Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi of the Shiite fundamentalist Da’wa (Islamic Call) Party angrily riposted to Donald Trump’s repeated statement that the US should have “taken” Iraq’s petroleum while it was occupying that country. He said yesterday, “We can’t understand what he means. Does he mean that the US should have occupied Iraqi oil in 2003 so that Daesh [ISIS, ISIL] could not gain control over that oil?” He added, “According to the Iraqi constitution, Iraqi petroleum belongs to Iraq.”

At the same time, al-Abadi expressed pleasure at Trump’s assurance that US military aid to Iraq for its fight against Daesh would not only continue but be substantially increased.

While al-Abadi seemed deferential if a bit outraged and deeply puzzled by Trump’s pronouncements, al-Zaman reports that hard line nationalist Shiite cleric Al-Sadr said, in response to the plans to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, that it constituted “an open declaration of war against Islam, in a manner greater than ever before.” He added, “If it happens, it will necessitate the creation of a special brigade to liberate Jerusalem.” It is expected that Sadr will issue a detailed statement with regard to this brigade at a later time. If the US moved its embassy to Jerusalem, it would constitute an explicit recognition of that disputed city as the capital of Israel. Al-Sadr called on the Arab League either to dissolve itself or to make a sincere stand to prevent this naked aggression. He also called on the Organization of the Islamic Conference to likewise make a forceful stand rather than only issuing a symbolic statement. Any other course of action, he said, would result in its demise as an organization. (The Organization of the Islamic Conference is a regular meeting of the foreign ministers of dozens of Muslim-majority countries, with other sorts of exchanges on the side).

Al-Sadr called on the Muslim-majority nations to close the US and Israeli embassies and demanded in particular that the US embassy in Iraq be closed immediately. He warned that if the Middle East does not make a stand now, it will be fateful for the region’s relationship with the United States. He warned that Trump was reneging on his pledge not to intervene in the affairs of other nations, and that he was explicitly putting forward the slogan of “America First.”

The dark clouds gather on what should otherwise be a good news day for US-Iraqi relations. US military support has been crucial in the liberation of most of East Mosul from Daesh (ISIL, ISIS) by the Iraqi Army and its Kurdish and Shiite allies. Just yesterday, the US embassy in Iraq had congratulated the Iraqi government on the achievement in East Mosul praising the bravery and sacrifices of the Iraqi Army and the Counter-Terrorism Brigades, the Federal police, the Kurdistan Peshmerga or national guard, and all the military formations of Iraqi security (a euphemism for Shiite militias). The US embassy added, “The United States wishes to express its continued support for Iraq in its struggle to liberate all of its territory from this terrorist gang.”

The news of the plan to bar Iraqis from getting visas to come to the US has, according to CBS provoked anxiety and puzzlement in the Iraqi troops who are fighting alongside US troops. “Why would you ban us? We are the victims. In fact, American ISIS fighters have come here.” His commanding officer said it wouldn’t be right for the US to ban Muslims, and would contravene America’s role as a multi-ethnic country. Yep, a real morale booster for the alliance against Daesh.

CBS Evening News: “Iraqis fighting ISIS respond to ban on entering U.S.”

When most of the Sunni Arab west and north seceded from Iraq in 2014, acquiescing in rule by extremist Sunni Daesh and its phony caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Shiite-dominated government of Haydar al-Abadi sought the help of the Obama administration in liberating Iraqi territory from the terrorist organization. Obama gave Iraqi forces, including Shiite militias allied with Iran, air support, and over time sent 6,000 troops to Iraq to provide training and help with planning and logistics. When the fight for Mosul bogged down in December, it was these US troops who helped Iraqi field officers refine their strategy. The Iraqi army and its militia allies have now taken about half of Mosul, the last major Iraqi city in the hands of Daesh.

For there to be severe friction between Iraq and the US at this point, because of Trump’s tweets, deeply endangers the US troops in that country and de facto gives aid and comfort to ISIL.

15 Responses

  1. It’s very hard to see Arab/Muslim nations eagerly associating with Trump’s USA in anti-ISIS actions.

    Other comments on other threads here talk of an Israeli-Saudi alliance, that wants to work against Palestinians. I have no special insight or ability to read Arabic, nevertheless I see the Trump insistence on the Jerusalam embassy to be more likely to push the Salafist (and generally fundamentalist anti-government tendencies) in Saudi (and other Arab peninsula regimes) and pro-regime fundamentalists more closely together, in opposition to Israel and the USA. Any chance we in the USA face another Arab oil boycott?

  2. What Trump means is he wants Iraq to pay for the “work” the U.S.A. military is doing in Iraq and they can pay for it by turning over their oil. It would help his friend he is nominating to the Cabinet ever so much.

    Trump doesn’t care about Iraq and expect him to pull American forces out of there in the not so distant a future because Iraq is a Muslim country. He doesn’t want Iraq citizens coming into the U.S.A. so expect big changes. As far as fighting ISIS, expect that to stop shortly also. Its costing the U.S.A. money which won’t be there once the tax cuts are in place. trump is going to be defunding the treasury so waging war is not going to be part of the plan.

  3. This has to be a record. Within the first week of his Presidency Trump has managed to insult and anger three governments: Mexico, Iraq, China.

  4. Does anyone actually believe the embassy WILL be moved to Jerusalem? We have a functioning embassy in Tel Aviv. In my experience, US embassies are imposing concrete fortresses, unlike other country’s embassies, which often look like places people could live. I have not been to Israel, but I am told most embassies are in Tel Aviv, and I have hunch it is a hipper, more modern city than Jerusalem. I know Republicans are are herd animals, like sheep, and have fallen in line with Trump so far, but given the cost of building a new embassy and lack of benefit, will they fund this? Where’s Schumer on the idea?

    • “Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer was an original co-sponsor on the Jerusalem Embassy Act and has expressed support for relocating the embassy.

      “Senator Schumer has long supported moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and has called on both Democratic and Republican Presidents to make this happen,” Matt House, Schumer’s spokesman, told POLITICO in an email.”

      Of course…

      link to politico.com

  5. i for one find it impossible to ever be comfortable that i know the truth of ANY issue involving american foreign policy and what is actually happening on the ground, let alone behind the scenes.

    and i dont see how anyone can claim otherwise.

  6. Trump is not looked at favorably by most people in the world. His America first policy is not going to be very successful in the rest of the world, because Presidents before him knew that you need the support and help from many nations for trade, at the UN, and to fight global terrorism. Trump will learn the hard way that arrogance does not pay. Unfortunately it will be the US that finally pays for Trumps lunacy.

  7. Trump has apparently got no idea how seriously the world takes his off-hand and ill-considered tweets. Unless he learns to take advice from experienced security and regional experts, there is a real danger of total collapse of the anti-ISIS effort.

    • ISIS appears to be far too useful an enemy for all governments to be worth destroying. Everyone sends forces there to bomb ISIS, and they instead bomb someone else’s proxies. And imagine how valuable ISIS is in the long-lasting Israeli effort to prove to the world that Moslems and Arabs are inherently animals and that the Palestinians thus can be deprived of the right to exist. Sure, America is the only country where this propaganda campaign worked, but it’s the only country where it needed to work. ISIS can be molded into the final justification for the cleansing of the Occupied Territories and the official elimination of Arab citizenship in Israel proper.

      If ISIS finally falls to the Kurds and Shia actually living there who understand how awful it is, the Saudis will bankroll a replacement and this all starts over again.

  8. Why doesn’t Trump demand the U.S. be compensated for the cost of Shock and Awe, torturing IraqI citizens (not cheap), finding Saddam in a hole and sending 600 troops to guard their embassy from whoever else is after their oil and be done with it. He’s a businessman? Make a deal!

  9. “anxiety and puzzlement in the Iraqi troops who are fighting alongside US troops. ‘Why would you ban us? ‘ ”

    The US has a history of taking in “refugees” who have collaborated with US interventions. This incentive may no longer apply to Muslims.

  10. Every day brings a new madness, insanity on steroids so to say. The ‘Nuclear button’ can’t be far away… The ‘exceptional’ nation has become extremely ‘exceptional’ now.

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