March 20, 2023

Trump’s behavior during Christmas photo-op trip to Iraq just caused a major diplomatic crisis

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President Trump’s arrogance and utter disregard for any kind of diplomatic protocol caused an international incident on Thursday when members of the Iraqi parliament demanded that America immediately withdraw its troops from the country, accusing Trump of violating their sovereignty when he visited U.S. soldiers on Christmas night.

The elaborate public relations stunt deeply offended the host nation when Trump failed to meet with a single Iraqi official during his stay, communicating clearly that he held not an iota of respect for the people of Iraq and didn’t feel that the Iraqi government deserved to be treated as an equal partner.

Trump’s insulting behavior, coupled with his insistence that the 5,200-strong U.S. military presence in Iraq could be used to run operations in Syria as he withdraws the 2,000 U.S. soldiers stationed there, managed to infuriate both sides of the Iraqi political establishment.

“Trump needs to know his limits. The American occupation of Iraq is over,” said Islah bloc leader Sabah al-Saidi, who was upset that Trump had simply sailed into Iraq “as though Iraq is a state of the United States.”

The other major political bloc, Binaa, said in a statement that Trump showed “a flagrant and clear violation of diplomatic norms,” and showed “his disdain and hostility in his dealings with the Iraqi government.”

“Iraq should not be a platform for the Americans to settle their accounts with either the Russians or the Iranians in the region,” complained senior lawmaker Hakim al-Zamili.

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The United States invaded Iraq under false pretenses in 2003 and destabilized the country, plunging it into a horrific civil war. After withdrawing the vast majority of our troops in 2011, President Obama deployed more manpower in 2014 to help the Iraqi government fight the terror group ISIS (Daesh/ISIL), which had carved out a huge swath of territory in northwestern Iraq and eastern Syria.

Now that the majority of territory held by ISIS has been liberated and the terror group forced to retreat into the desert, the clamor for U.S. troop withdrawal has been steadily growing — and Trump just threw a gallon fuel on that fire with yet another frustrating unforced error.

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To make matters worse, the head of one of Iraq’s largest militias, Qais Khazali of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, ominously warned on Twitter “that Parliament would vote to expel U.S. forces from Iraq, or the militias would force them out by ‘other means.'”

Veterans of the Iraq War know all too well what those “other means” entail.

To sum up, not only has President Trump triggered a public firestorm of criticism with his thoughtless and disrespectful remarks to our military servicepeople, he’s also created a major international incident that could put our troops in danger should he not handle this correctly — and given that it’s his behavior that caused the crisis in the first place, nobody should have any faith that he’s capable of doing so.

While we should be withdrawing our troops from Iraq in the near future, the needless damage to our relationship with Iraq won’t be easily overcome — and nor will the damage Trump will have done to the United States’ standing with the rest of the world.

Original reporting by Phillip Issa at the Associated Press.

Colin Taylor

Managing Editor

Colin Taylor is the managing editor of the Washington Press. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice, equality, and universal health care in America.

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