Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned Iraq about the "detrimental" effects of having U.S. forces on its territory and urged its neighbor to get the troops to leave as soon as possible.
In a series of tweets after meeting with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi in Tehran on April 6, the Iranian leader questioned the motives of the United States, saying it opposes Iraq’s "current democratic setting."
"U.S. military presence in Iraq is detrimental to countries and nations of the region. You should take actions to make the U.S. withdraw its troops from Iraq because wherever they have had enduring presence, forcing them out has become problematic,” he said in the first of five tweets.
"The U.S. pursues goals beyond simply maintaining military presence in Iraq. They seek enduring presence and interests as well as forming a government like the military states that existed during the early years of occupying Iraq,” he added.
The Iraqi prime minister is on a two-day visit to neighboring Iran as the countries seek to expand commercial ties.
Earlier on April 6, Mahdi met Iranian President Hassan Rohani, who said they discussed expanding their gas and electricity trade and working towards fulfilling a plan to connect their railroads.
Mahdi's visit came after Rohani made his first official visit to Iraq in March, with Tehran seeking to bolster its influence in its neighboring country as Baghdad is under pressure from the United States to limit ties with Iran.
Iraq, which receives financial and military support from Washington, has attempted to balance its relations with the United States and Iran, which carries significant influence with members of Iraq's Shi'ite population.
“If the Iraqi government and officials follow the U.S., they won't have problems with them. But the current Iraqi government, parliament and political activists are unfavorable to the U.S., thus they devise plots to push this assembly out of the political scene in Iraq,” Khamenei said in another tweet.
Tehran does not have an official military presence in Iraq. But the government supports powerful Shi'ite paramilitary groups operating in the country, with estimates of the number of fighters ranging up to 150,000.
The United States has some 5,200 troops stationed in Iraq, mostly focused on training and support missions.
The United States has called on Baghdad to form partnerships with American companies to become energy independent.