Trump says he’ll sanction Iraq if US troops forced to leave

President Trump said Sunday that the United States would not leave Iraq on “friendly” terms and threatened to impose sanctions on the country if forced to withdraw American troops.

“If they do ask us to leave, if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis, we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Sunday afternoon when asked about the vote by Iraq’s parliament to end U.S. troop presence in the country.

“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,” Trump added.

Trump made the remarks to reporters while traveling from Palm Beach, Fla., to Washington, D.C., after a two-week stint at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

Earlier Sunday, the Iraqi parliament voted in favor of a resolution calling on the country’s government to work toward ending U.S. troop presence there after a U.S. airstrike killed a top Iranian general in the capital of Baghdad. American forces have maintained a presence in Iraq since 2014 as part of the operation targeting ISIS.

The bill is subject to approval by the Iraqi government.

Trump also at one point Sunday suggested that American forces wouldn’t leave Iraq unless the country paid the U.S. back for its “expensive air base” there, an apparent reference to the Al Asad Air Base.

“We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that’s there. It cost billions of dollars to build. Long before my time,” Trump said. “We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it.”

The Iraqi parliament vote on Sunday was among a number of developments in the wake of the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who commanded Iran’s Quds Force. U.S. officials have described the strike as a defensive measure meant to halt planned attacks on Americans; Soleimani is said to have been responsible for attacks that killed hundreds of American troops over the years.

The strike came amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran in the region, following the death of an American contractor in a rocket attack in Iraq that Washington blamed on Tehran.

Iran has vowed retaliation for Soleimani’s death. Trump, meanwhile, has threatened to hit Iranian sites if Tehran strikes Americans or U.S. assets in response, including threatening to hit Iranian cultural sites. Some have argued that attacking a cultural site could be considered a war crime.

“They’re allowed to kill our people,” Trump told reporters Sunday evening. “They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site?”

“It doesn’t work that way,” Trump said. 

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