King of Spain, defense minister inspect forces in Iraq
King of Spain Felipe VI made his first visit to Iraq in four decades to inspect his forces and speak with officials about reconstruction post-ISIS on Wednesday.
Felipe was accompanied by Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles. They visited a US-led international anti-ISIS coalition base at Besmayah.
The king thanked his forces calling them “a pride for all Spaniards,” according to a statement from the royal family’s website.
Spain currently has 551 military members deployed in Iraq. The statement noted that their main task is to “train the Iraqi Army against Daesh,” using another name for ISIS.
They were joined by Lt. Gen. Paul J. Lacamera, the US commander of the Combined Joint Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, and Canadian Gen. Dany Fortin, the commander of the NATO Mission to Iraq.
Later, Iraqi President Barham Salih received the Spanish delegation at the presidential complex.
Salih “valued the Spanish government’s role and its active participation in the fight against ISIS’ gangs,” according to a statement from his office.
A Spanish monarchy last visited Iraq 40 years ago, prior to the invasion of Kuwait. The operation caused diplomatic fallout between Baghdad and many foreign countries.
“The President indicated that Iraq is seeking to develop its relations with the regional and international surrounding[s] to enhance its stature and role in the region,” added the statement.
Iraq is rebuilding post-ISIS and has received about one-third of the $80-100 billion it was seeking from the international community.
“His Majesty asserted his country’s keenness to consolidate friendly relations and expand the horizons of constructive cooperation between the two countries and, Spain’s readiness to contribute to Iraq’s reconstruction,” added the statement from Salih’s office.
In a diplomatic gaffe, the king’s plane displayed the three-star Iraqi flag used by former dictator Saddam Hussein from 1963-1991.
The current flag displays the phrase Allahu akhbar “God is greatest” in place of the stars. Source