United States President, Donald Trump, has threatened severe sanctions against Iraq after its parliament asks the American troops to leave the country. “We have a very extraordinarily expensive airbase that’s there. It cost billions of dollars to build. We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it,” he told journalists.
Tensions are high after the US assassinated Iranian General, Qasem Soleimani, in Baghdad last week. Soleimani, 62, spearheaded Iranian military operations in the Middle East and was regarded as a terrorist by the US. The general’s remains have now returned to his home country, where mourners packed the streets of Tehran early on Monday. The new head of Iran’s Quds force – which Soleimani led – has vowed to expel the US from the Middle East.
Trump warns “We promise to continue martyr Soleimani’s path with the same force… and the only compensation for us would be to remove America from the region,” Esmail Qaani told journalists. The strike that killed Soleimani also claimed the life of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a top Iraqi military figure who commanded the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah group.
Speaking from the presidential plane, Mr. Trump said that if Iraq asked US forces to depart on an unfriendly basis, “we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before, ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.” Some 5,000 US soldiers are in Iraq as part of the international coalition against the Islamic State (IS) group. On Sunday, the coalition paused its operations against IS in Iraq, and Iraqi Members of Parliament (MPs) passed a non-binding resolution calling for foreign troops to leave (BBC).