- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2020

President Trump and Iraqi President Barham Salih projected optimism Wednesday as they discussed American troops in the Middle East and other thorny issues during a meeting on the sidelines of a Swiss economic forum.

“We’re working on military. We’re working on ISIS,” Mr. Trump said, referring to the Islamic State. “We have a whole host of very difficult things to discuss, and some very positive things also. And we’ve been friends, and the relationship is very good.”

Some in Iraq called for ousting U.S. troops after Mr. Trump ordered the drone strike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, saying it violated their sovereignty.

Mr. Trump insisted the U.S. and Iraq have a “very good relationship” and said the number of American troops is down to a “historically low” 5,000.

Mr. Salih, meanwhile, said the meeting was an important opportunity to discuss his goal of a “stable, sovereign Iraq.”

“It’s an important opportunity to meet President Trump to talk about the developments in our neighborhood. These are challenging times, difficult times,” he said. “We have had an enduring relationship, and the United States has been a partner to Iraq and in the war against ISIS. This mission needs to be accomplished, and I believe you and I share the same mission for a stable, sovereign Iraq that is at peace with itself and at peace with its neighbors.”

Previously, Mr. Trump had threatened to sanction Iraq if it ousted American troops without paying the U.S. for its work in the country. He didn’t back off that threat ahead of the bilateral meeting Wednesday.

“We’ll see what happens because we do have to do things on our terms,” Mr. Trump said.

Earlier, Mr. Trump defended his policy in northern Syria during a meeting with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Nechirvan Barzani in Davos.

Mr. Trump faced rampant criticism after he abruptly pulled U.S. troops from the border with Turkey in October, allowing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to overrun American-allied Kurdish fighters. Mr. Trump sent Vice President Mike Pence to negotiate a cease-fire with Turkey and set up a safe zone in the area.

“We left Syria from the standpoint of the border and it’s working out great with Turkey. That’s worked out far better than anybody thought possible,” Mr. Trump said. “We left soldiers for the oil. We have it very nicely secured.”

Mr. Barzani thanked Mr. Trump for his leadership and support.

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