US President Trump threatens Iraq with crippling sanctions

USA

06 January 2020, 09:20

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President Donald Trump has warned that the U.S. would levy harsh sanctions if Iraq expels American troops in retaliation for a U.S. strike in Baghdad that killed a top Iranian official.

Trump’s comments Sunday came amid escalating tensions in the Middle East following the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds force. Iran has vowed to retaliate and Iraq’s parliament responded by voting Sunday to oust U.S. troops based in the country. 

Iraq’s parliamentary vote is non-binding and has yet to be ratified by the government. 

The targeted killing of Soleimani sparked outrage in the Middle East, including in Iraq, where more than 5,000 American troops are still on the ground 17 years after the U.S. invasion. Iraq’s parliament voted Sunday in favour of a nonbinding resolution calling for the expulsion of the American forces. 

Trump said the U.S. wouldn’t leave without being paid for its military investments in Iraq over the years. He added that if troops do have to withdraw, he would hit Baghdad with economic penalties.

“We will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame,” he said. “If there’s any hostility, that they do anything we think is inappropriate, we are going to put sanctions on Iraq, very big sanctions on Iraq.”

He added: “We’re not leaving until they pay us back for it.”

The administration has scrambled to contend with the backlash to the killing of Soleimani. Though he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans, the targeted American strike marked a stark escalation in tensions between Washington and Tehran.

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