Speaking during a cabinet meeting in Tehran, President Rouhani referred to Trump’s unannounced visit to Iraq late last month — during which he merely stopped at a military base — and said the secrecy that characterized the trip was proof of America’s “defeat”, Press TV reported.
“Since 2003, the Americans have been claiming that they have salvaged Iraq and Afghanistan; but if this claim is true, then why don’t you openly make an official trip to see how the Iraqis would welcome you on the streets of Baghdad and Basra?” Rouhani said.
“The fact that you enter a small military base secretly and under the cover of the night, take pictures with a few soldiers, speak briefly, and leave Iraq a couple of hours later indicates your defeat,” the Iranian president said.
Rouhani noted the secrecy also meant that “you have not been successful, that you know the people of Iraq are not happy with you, and that you don’t dare to be [publicly present] among them.”
Iraq, he suggested, was a feasible destination for Trump. “As for Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, you don’t even dare to travel there!” he said.
On December 26, Trump spent a few hours at Al-Asad Air Base in Iraq’s western Anbar Province but did not visit the capital Baghdad. A scheduled meeting between Trump and Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi was scrapped and they only talked over the phone.
Trump acknowledged the security concerns about visiting Iraq, saying it was “pretty sad” that he needed such secrecy to see US troops.
“Pretty sad when you spend $7 trillion in the Middle East, and going in has to be under this massive cover with planes all over and all of the greatest equipment in the world, and you do everything to get in safely,” he said.
The visit sparked a wave of condemnations from Iraqi officials, with some of them demanding the expulsion of American forces.