As he defended decision to pull out troops from Syria, US President Donald Trump said in a surprise visit to Iraq on Wednesday that Iraq might be used as a future base “if we wanted to do something in Syria.”
Trump landed at 7:16 pm local time at Ain Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq, accompanied by his wife Melania, following what he described as a stressful, secrecy shrouded flight on a “pitch black” Air Force One.
The president spoke to a group of about 100 mostly special forces personnel and separately with military leaders before leaving a few hours later. A planned meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi was scrapped and replaced by a phone call, the premier’s office said.
Defending Syria Pullout
At the Iraqi military base, Trump sought to defend his “America First” policy of pulling back from multinational alliances.
“It’s not fair when the burden is all on us,” he said. “We don’t want to be taken advantage of any more by countries that use us and use our incredible military to protect them. They don’t pay for it and they’re going to have to.”
“We are spread out all over the world. We are in countries most people haven’t even heard about. Frankly, it’s ridiculous,” he added.
Trump told reporters he had overruled generals asking to extend the Syria deployment.
“You can’t have any more time. You’ve had enough time,” he said he told the top brass.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, Trump said “we’ve knocked them out,” although he appeared to hedge his bets — following widespread criticism that his victory against ISIL declaration is premature — when he added that Iraq might be used as a future base “if we wanted to do something in Syria.”
And while highlighting the military and financial roles he said Turkey and Saudi Arabia had agreed to play in Syria, Trump also told journalists that “we may go back and help.”
Impact on ‘Israel’
In reply to a question on how the US withdrawal from Syria will impact the Zionist entity, Trump said that “we give Israel $4.5 billion” security every year, and so “Israel will be very good.”
Speaking to reporters on the way back the trip in Iraq, Trump said: “I spoke with Bibi. I told Bibi, you know we give Israel 4.5 billion dollars a year. And they are doing very well at defending themselves,” referring to Israeli Premier, Benjamin Netanyahu.
He added that “I’m the one that moved the embassy to Jerusalem (Al-Quds). I was the one who was willing to do that. So that’s the way it is – we are going to take great care of Israel. Israel is going to be good. We give Israel 4.5 billion a year. And we give frankly a lot more than that if you look at the books. They’ve been doing a good job.”