(CNSNews.com) – A day after President Trump told U.S. military personnel in Iraq that the U.S. would maintain a presence there, in part, to keep a “watch over Iran,” the regime in Tehran slammed the president’s visit and warned him to withdraw the troops.
“The U.S. must leave West Asia,” said Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, a senior military advisor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “This region belongs to us.”
Safavi, speaking at a university in the country’s north-west, pointed to the deaths of thousands of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, and said the U.S. has wasted its resources in the region.
And while it was doing so, he said, it was ignoring its main rivals, Russia and China.
The Tasnim news agency quoted Safavi as predicting that China and Russia, along with India and Iran, “will be the new powers of the new century” and that “a dramatic shift of the global center of power is taking place now from the West to the East.”
In Tehran, foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi also criticized Trump’s visit to Iraq, saying he had ignored diplomatic norms and disrespected Iraq’s sovereignty.
Qassemi added that foreign forces would sooner or later be compelled to withdraw from the region altogether.
During his visit to the Al Asad Airbase north-west of Baghdad, Trump defended his decision to withdraw the 2,000 U.S. troops deployed in Syria as part of the coalition to defeat the Sunni terrorist group ISIS.
And he told the troops that the military presence in Iraq would remain, both to “prevent an ISIS resurgence” in Syria or Iraq, and “to watch over Iran.”
Iran is heavily entangled in neighboring Iraq, which is also a Shi’ite-majority country, and during the Iraq war it was accused of directing and funding attacks on U.S. forces by allied Shi’ite militias.
Earlier the head of an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq – one of those U.S. military commanders held responsible for deadly IED attacks on American troops before the previous pullout in 2011 – warned Trump to remove the roughly 5,000 personnel who are now in the country.
If the troops do not leave, tweeted the leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, “we have the experience and the ability to eject them by other means, familiar to your forces when they were humiliated in 2011.”
‘We can hit them so fast and so hard’
Leaders of two other pro-Iran militias in Iraq, Kata’ib Hezbollah and the al-Nujaba movement, have also issued threatening statements, the IRGC-affiliated Fars news agency reported.
“The Islamic Resistance will force the U.S. to evacuate forces from Iraq,” said Kata’ib Hezbollah spokesman Jaafar Husseini, whose group is a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization. “The Iraqi resistance commanders have vowed to cut off the hands of aggressors against the neighboring states, including Syria.”
Al-Nujaba spokesman Hashem al-Moussavi said the violation of Iraq’s sovereignty by “the foolish U.S. president” would not go “unpunished.”
“We will not allow Iraq to turn into a base for the U.S. to threaten the neighboring states,” he added.
During his Iraq visit, Trump said U.S. forces stationed there could carry out strikes against ISIS terrorists across the border in Syria if necessary.
“We could use this as a base if we wanted to do something in Syria,” he told reporters accompanying him. “If we see something happening with ISIS that we don’t like, we can hit them so fast and so hard, they won’t – they really won’t know what the hell happened.”
A senior Russian lawmaker said the international community should make it clear to the U.S. that carrying out any military action in a neighboring country without its government’s consent and the authorization of the U.N. Security Council would violate that country’s sovereignty.
Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee, said it would amount to acting like a “global policeman,” a role which no-one had assigned to the U.S.
Meanwhile another senior Iranian official welcomed reports that Trump also plans to halve the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan,
Visiting Kabul, Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, told President Ashraf Ghani that the presence of U.S. troops had brought nothing but war and insecurity.
Shamkhani also said Tehran was ready to enhance military, political and economic cooperation with Afghanistan.
U.S. administrations have long maintained that the Iranian regime is the world’s foremost state-sponsor of terrorism.