ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has told Iraq’s Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi to ensure American soldiers leave the country “as soon as possible,” Iranian state media reported on Saturday.
“You must make sure that the Americans withdraw their troops from Iraq as soon as possible because expelling them has become difficult whenever they have had a long military presence in a country,” state media Mehr News Agency quoted Khamenei as saying.
The call was made in a meeting between Iran’s top leader and the Iraqi prime minister who arrived in Tehran on Saturday, the first visit to the neighboring country since he took office in October of 2018.
His trip comes at the invitation of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who met with the Iraqi leader shortly after his arrival in Iran’s capital.
The US’ presence in Iraq has been a hot topic in recent months. Influential political figures, including leaders of the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq – Shia militias that arose to fight the Islamic State – are now increasingly calling on US troops to leave the country.
An Iraqi foreign ministry official told Kurdistan 24 in a previous interview that the US military presence does not involve combat troops, but “only military advisors and trainers, who are helping our army.”
American troops in Iraq – numbered at around 6,000 by Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi – have been and continue to provide training and counseling to Iraq’s security forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga in the fight against the terrorist organization.