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Saudi FM: KSA Wants US Troops to Stay in Iraq

Saudi FM: KSA Wants US Troops to Stay in Iraq
folder_openMiddle East... access_time 24 days ago
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By Staff, CNN

Saudi Arabia doesn't want US troops to leave Iraq and fears that a withdrawal could make the Middle East less safe, the country's Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud told CNN on Monday.

Faisal claimed that the American presence in the region played a crucial role in defeating the Wahhabi Daesh [Arabic acronym for “ISIS” / “ISIL”] and was key to preventing the resurgence of the terror group. "The US has proven time and again to be a reliable ally of the Kingdom, and this is also the case with the Trump administration," he told CNN.

"We work very well with President Trump and with the State Department and the Pentagon and we coordinate on issues of regional security," he said. There are around 3,000 US troops currently stationed in Saudi Arabia.

Calls for US troops to withdraw from Iraq have intensified following the killing of the top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Iraq earlier this month. Hundreds of thousands of protesters marched through Baghdad on Friday calling for US troops to leave. There are roughly 5,000 US troops in Iraq.

Iraq's parliament voted to expel the US military from the country following the attack against Soleimani, but the Trump administration has said it does not intend to pull troops out. Faisal said a US withdrawal could increase the risk of the return of Daesh.

"We believe that the defeat of ISIS was very much based on the contribution of the international coalition, including the US," he said. "We think that while ISIS is geographically defeated they continue to pose a threat and it's very important that the international community continue to support the Iraqi forces to remain vigilant and the American presence is an important of that," he added.

Faisal said he believed the US acted in "their own legitimate self-defense" when it struck against Soleimani, and added he agreed with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the region was safer following Soleimani's death. The Trump administration said at the time the strike was meant to head off an imminent attack on Americans.

Following the attack, Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif warned of "all-out war" in the event of US or Saudi military strikes against his country, and questioned whether Saudi Arabia was prepared to fight "to the last American soldier."