United States President Donald Trump said Sunday that if Iraq forces the withdrawal of U.S. military personnel it would have to pay the costs of the U.S. airbase built there or prepare for sanctions so "strong that those imposed on Iran would pale in comparison."
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"We have an extraordinarily expensive airbase in Iraq, which cost billions of dollars to build, long before I arrived. We're not leaving unless we get paid for it," Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One.
The measures the United States is willing to apply to its alleged ally in the fight against the Islamic State group will be even tougher than the crippling sanctions already in place against Tehran, he added.
Trump’s statements come after Iraqi parliamentarians passed a resolution, supported by the country's interim prime minister, calling on the Iraqi government to expel foreign troops by canceling a request for military assistance from the U.S.-led coalition.
The resolution passed on Sunday, states that some of the foreign troops could remain in Iraq for training, but Iraqi authorities should report on the number of foreign instructors deemed necessary.
Some 5,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, most in an advisory role. These troops are based in several parts of the country, including the Al-Anbar and Nineveh provinces that border neighboring Syria.
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The U.S. has used these bases in Nineveh and Al-Anbar to reinforce and resupply their forces inside Syria as they continue operations against the Islamic State.
As part of his statements, Trump also reiterated to destroy Iranian cultural sites in retaliation for possible future attacks. Accusing Iran of "torturing" and "maiming" U.S. soldiers in suicide attacks and placing bombs on roads, Trump suggested that the attacks on U.S. troops justify a potential war crime, the destruction of a nation's cultural heritage.
"They are allowed to kill our people. They are allowed to torture and mutilate our people. They are allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we are not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn't work that way."
Tensions have gotten worse since the U.S. launched a drone attack last Thursday on a convoy traveling near Baghdad airport, killing the elite commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Qassem Soleimani, along with a dozen other senior Iraqi militia leaders.
The assassination of Soleimani, who played a key role in fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq, has provoked outrage throughout Iran and Iraq, with Tehran swearing to avenge the killing, calling it "an act of international terrorism."