Sairoon criticizes US presence in Iraq after general tours Mutanabi Street

US Marine Corps. Brig. Gen. Austin Renforth, theater deputy commanding general for operations and director of Joint Operations-Iraq for Operation Inherent Resolve takes a moment to pay respect to those lost during World War I at a Veterans Day ceremony at Union III, Baghdad, Nov. 11, 2018. (File/US Department of Defense)

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SULAIMANI — Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon List criticized the presence of US forces in Iraq after Director of Joint Operations-Iraq for the Combined Joint Task Force Brig. Gen. Austin Renforth toured Mutanabi Street in central Baghdad last week.

Renforth went on the visit with Baghdad's commander of operations Jalil al-Rubaie, according to Turkish state-owned Anadolu Agency.

In a statement on Sunday (January 6), spokesperson for the Sairoon List Hamdallah Rikabi said, "This is a challenge to national will, a new violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and a bad behavior that reveals the ugly face of the American administration.”

"We announce our condemnation and rejection of these cowardly acts and warn these forces not to repeat such barbaric behavior," he added.

"Our position remains the same in rejecting American policies that do not respect the sovereignty of nations, their territorial integrity and the dignity of their people."

A US Marine, Renforth is the deputy commander of US forces in Iraq. There are believed to be around 5,000 US troops in the country, serving largely as trainers.

Renforth told NPR that the experience was “incredible.” In an exchange reported by the US outlet, Rubaie said, “I hope one day, you'll bring your family here in Baghdad.”

Reforth replied, “I would love to bring my family here.”

The tour came several weeks after a controversial visit by US President Donald Trump on December 26, when he visited US troops at Al Asad Air Base west of Baghdad but did not meet with any Iraqi officials.

The visit was roundly condemned by many Iraqi lawmakers as a violation of the country’s sovereignty.

Sabah al Saadi, the leader of the Islah parliamentary bloc, called for an emergency session of parliament “to discuss this blatant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and to stop these aggressive actions by Trump who should know his limits: The US occupation of Iraq is over.”

The Bina bloc, Islah’s rival in parliament and led by Iran-backed militia leader Hadi al-Amiri, also objected to Trump’s trip to Iraq, according to Reuters.

“Trump’s visit is a flagrant and clear violation of diplomatic norms and shows his disdain and hostility in his dealings with the Iraqi government,” said a statement from Bina.

(NRT Digital Media)