President Fuad Masum says no decision has been made for Iraq to host permanent American military bases, stressing that Baghdad will not allow for the country to turn into a launch pad for any military aggression against neighboring Iran.
In an interview with Iranian Arabic-language al-Alam news network, Masum said there are “various allegations and analyses” with regards to reported US plans to build permanent military bases in Iraq.
However, “in actuality, Iraqi security bodies have announced that there is no such thing or decision,” he added.
“If they had begun building such bases, everyone would have known about it. Why should there be such bases [at all]? Is Iraq going to come under occupation in the future? Is anybody going to take military action against Iraq? We should defend Iraq ourselves,” Masum added.
The remarks echoed those by Foreign Minister Ebrahim Ja’afari, who said in March that his country would under no circumstances permit the United States to build permanent military bases on its soil, calling the prospect a violation of its sovereignty.
According to US government data, there are about 9,000 American troops in Iraq. The US Department of Defense, though, puts the number far lower.
‘Iran was first to help out Daesh-hit Iraq’
Masum also said Iran was the first country that rushed to Iraq’s assistance when Daesh began its campaign of terror and seized swathes of land in the country in 2014.
The assistance took the form of humanitarian and logistical support, he said, and noted that the Islamic Republic had also lent military advisory support to Iraq as it was battling the terrorists.
Backed by Iranian military advisors, Iraq managed to fully liberate all Daesh-held territories late last year.
Mediation between Iran, Saudi
The Iraqi head of state also commented on tense Iran-Saud Arabia ties, emphasizing the need for mediation between the two sides.
He said the standing tensions between Iran and Saudi do not benefit the region, adding that the latest meeting among Arab League foreign ministers had featured a mention of the need for identifying the origin and basis of the standing differences.
If circumstances permited, the need for intercession between Tehran and Riyadh would be addressed again during the next AL meeting, Masum added.
‘Turkey should leave Bashiqa’
The Iraqi statesman further criticized the presence of Turkish forces in the northern city of Bashiqa, which they entered in 2015 under the pretext of fighting Daesh.
There is no justification for the continued deployment of Turkish troops there as Daesh no longer exists within the region, Masum said.
The city was liberated in November 2016 by Kurdish militants, whom Turkey links with anti-Ankara terrorists.