Iraq’s most senior religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, rarely interjects himself into politics. US officials have long tried to stay on Sistani’s good side anyhow, fearing that his opposition could up-end the entire military presence there.
President Trump’s talk of keeping a base in Iraq going forward to “watch Iran” seems to have pushed his buttons, however, with Sistani criticizing that, saying that Iraq should maintain “good and balanced relations” with all of its neighbors.
Sistani’s position appears in-line with most of the political leaders within Iraq, who have already rejected Trump’s comments, saying that Iraq is not going to be used as a staging area against any neighbors.
Pentagon officials don’t seem to be on board with this idea either. Since Trump’s comments, they have said no such orders have been issued, and the US military presence in Iraq right now has nothing to do with watching Iran.