US not to leave Iraq, unless they pay for our base: Trump
Donald Trump threatens Iraq with sanctions, says US won’t leave unless ‘they pay us back’ for air base
John Fritze USA TODAY
Published 9:34 PM EST Jan 5, 2020
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump threatened to impose deep sanctions on Iraq if it moves to expel U.S. troops and said Sunday he would not withdraw entirely unless the military is compensated for the “extraordinarily expensive air base” there.
Trump’s remarks came on the same day that Iraq’s Parliament voted to support expelling the U.S. military from its country over mounting anger about a drone strike the president ordered last week that killed Iran’s Qasem Soleimani and earlier U.S. airstrikes in the country. The vote was nonbinding.
“We’ve spent a lot of money in Iraq,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One as he returned to Washington after spending the holidays at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago. “We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that’s there. It cost billions of dollars to build. … We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it.”
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The president added that if Iraqi officials try to kick the United States out the country it would not leave on a “very friendly basis.” The U.S. invasion of Iraq took place in 2003.
“We will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever,” Trump said. “It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.”
Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi told lawmakers that a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops, including those from the U.S., was required “for the sake of our national sovereignty.” About 5,000 American troops are in various parts of Iraq.
Mahdi described the strike authorized by Trump as a “political assassination” and said it was “time for American troops to leave.” Withdrawing U.S. troops from the Middle East has been a central component of Trump’s foreign policy; however, he has been forced to deploy additional soldiers to region to respond to several crises.
Iran has promised ‘severe revenge’: Iraq votes to expel US troops after Iran Gen. Qasem Soleimani’s killing
“So with Iraq, I told you, Iraq, was the worst decision, going into the Middle East was the worst decision ever made in the history of our country,” Trump told reporters on Sunday. “But we went in and we’re there and we’re pulling out, pulling out of a lot of different areas.”
Trump did not specify which air base he was referring to, but the president flew into Al Asad Air Base during a surprise visit with troops there in 2018.
Iraq has been caught in the middle of increasing tensions between Washington and Iran. The U.S. Embassy in Iraq was the site of violent protests last week following a series of U.S. airstrikes ordered in retaliation for the death of an American civilian contractor killed in a rocket attack last month.
Those tensions were further inflamed by the killing of Soleimani near the airport in Baghdad. Iran has promised retaliation and Iraq has said the U.S. attacks violate their sovereignty.
Trump also reiterated a threat to target Iranian cultural sites if Tehran launches an attack in retaliation for Soleimani. The president has said a U.S. response to such an attack could be “disproportionate.”