U.S. troops are on their way out of Syria. In Afghanistan, a similar drawdown, perhaps even a permanent exit, is in the offing as peace talks with the Taliban continue. On February 2, U.S. President Donald Trump turned his attention to a third crucible of conflict in the region: Iraq.
This time, however, rather than talk of a drawdown, Trump argued in an interview with CBS’ Face the Nation that U.S. troops should remain in Iraq—not just to continue to fight the Islamic State, or ISIS, but to “watch Iran.” U.S. bases in Iraq, Trump suggested, would serve as outposts for monitoring Tehran’s activities relating to “nuclear weapons or other things.”
Trump’s comments are reckless. They reflect a misguided obsession with Iran and portray Iraq as little more than a pawn in the United States’ Iran policy. Such rhetoric is poison for Washington’s relationship with Baghdad—one of the last remaining anchors for U.S. influence in a region littered with dysfunctional and counterproductive partnerships.