January 9, 2019 / 03:55 PM
Mike Pompeo makes surprise visit to Iraq

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Baghdad on a surprise visit on Wednesday, January 9.

Pompeo was welcomed by Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi upon his arrival.

According to NRT he met with American troops and Iraqi leaders to reassure them about a US military withdrawal from Syria and warn that Iran remains a regional security threat, according to Reuters.

He met with the leaders of each branch of Iraq's government -- Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi, Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi, and President Barham Salih -- and his counterpart Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali al-Hakim.

Pompeo is on an extensive tour of Middle Eastern capitals in an effort to reassure allies after US President Donald Trump’s abrupt announcement that he will pull all 2,000 US troops from Syria.

Asked on Tuesday about a possible visit, Abdul Mahdi declined to confirm it.

However, he said any meeting with Pompeo would involve a discussion of how to deepen Iraq’s relationship with the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State.

 “He’s an ally, he represents a friendly country,” said Abdul Mahdi. “We will raise those issues, and how to deal with regional issues altogether and deepen our economic and educational relations with the United States.”

The previously unannounced visit to Baghdad also comes after a rocky visit by Trump over Christmas.

After enduring nearly two years of criticism for not visiting US troops in a conflict zone, Trump visited with US forces for several hours at Al Asad Air Base, west of Baghdad. During the trip, however, he declined to meet with Iraqi officials, citing an inability to agree on a location.

Local politicians condemned the breach of protocol, saying that it constituted a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

Weeks later, a visit by a US Marine general to Mutanabi Street in central Baghdad elicited similar criticism.

Reporter’s code: 50101