Less than a week into a dangerous, highly sensitive new frontier of relations with Iran, the Trump administration is already showing its ass.
The day after the Iraqi government voted to expel all U.S. troops in response to last week’s drone-strike assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani at the Baghdad International Airport, a letter from the Department of Defense to the Iraqi military was leaked by an Iran-backed TV channel in Iraq. The letter noted that U.S. forces in the nation would “prepare for onward movement” out of respect for Iraq’s “sovereign decision to order our departure.”
Multiple news outlets confirmed the authenticity of the letter, which seemed to run counter President Trump’s contention on Sunday that the U.S. would not leave Iraq unless the nation pays for the “extraordinarily expensive air base that’s there,” and that he would impose “very big sanctions” on Iraq should they “do anything we think is inappropriate.”
Perhaps aware of the president’s comments a day earlier, Defense Secretary Mark Esper quickly dismissed the idea that the U.S. had any plans to pull troops out of Iraq, despite the letter stating explicitly that it planned to do so.
— Tara Copp (@TaraCopp) January 6, 2020
So did Gen. Mark Milley, who reportedly doubled back into a room he just left after briefing the press to let everyone know that the letter was a “draft,” and a “mistake” that “should not have been released.”
Joint Chiefs Chair GEN Milley: “That letter is a draft it was a mistake, it was unsigned, it should not have been released…poorly worded, implies withdrawal, that is not what’s happening” pic.twitter.com/is0AsU1Ksx
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 6, 2020
Unfortunately for Esper and Milley, the “draft” was more than just a draft. In fact, it had already been sent to the Iraqi military.
General Milley has just said the letter regarding troop movements out of Iraq was a draft, and releasing it was a "mistake." It was however delivered to the Iraqi military. It seems the U.S. military is as confused as everyone else about what their intentions are.
— Liz Sly (@LizSly) January 6, 2020