Trump Threatens Sanctions After Iraqi Parliament Asks U.S. Troops to Leave

Iraqi militia leader says if U.S. presence doesn't end, they will be considered an occupying force ■ Donald Trump: 'We will charge them with sanctions like they've never seen before'

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi speaks during a symbolic funeral ceremony of the Federal Police's Major General Ali al-Lami who was killed in Salahuddin, in Baghdad, Iraq, on October 23, 2019.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi speaks during a symbolic funeral ceremony of the Federal Police's Major General Ali al-Lami who was killed in Salahuddin, in Baghdad, Iraq, on October 23, 2019. Credit: KHALID AL-MOUSILY/ REUTERS

The Iraqi parliament passed on Sunday a resolution calling on the government to end the presence of foreign troops in Iraq and ensure they don't use its land, air, and waters for any reason.

The move comes amid growing backlash after the killing of a top Iranian military commander and an Iraqi militia leader in a U.S. strike in Baghdad

"The government commits to revoke its request for assistance from the international coalition fighting Islamic State due to the end of military operations in Iraq and the achievement of victory," the resolution read.

"The Iraqi government must work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, airspace or water for any reason."

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Later on Sunday, U.S. President Donald Trump threatened sanctions against Baghdad, saying that if troops did leave, Washington would have to be reimbursed for the cost of the air base there.

"We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that's there. It cost billions of dollars to build, long before my time. We're not leaving unless they pay us back for it," Trump told reporters on Air Force One.

Trump said that if Iraq asked U.S. forces to leave and it was not done on a friendly basis, "we will charge them sanctions like they've never seen before ever. It'll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame."

The president also said he was considering releasing intelligence that led to the decision to kill Soleimani, and confirmed that Iranian cultural sites could be targets in a potential escalation.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi had earlier urged his country's parliament to take "urgent measures" to end the foreign troop presence in the country as soon as possible.

"Despite the internal and external difficulties that we might face, it remains best for Iraq on principle and practically," Abdul Mahdi told parliament in a speech.

Parliament resolutions, unlike laws, are non-binding to the government, but Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi had earlier called on parliament to end foreign troop presence.

The prime minister also said that the U.S. told the Iraqi government that Israel was behind some attacks on militia munition warehouses in 2019, during the parliamentary session.

The Iraqi parliament held an extraordinary session that lawmakers said they would use to push for a vote on a resolution requiring the end of the presence of foreign troops.

The session comes two days after a U.S. drone strike on a convoy at Baghdad airport which killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

"There is no need for the presence of American forces after defeating Daesh (Islamic State)," said Ammar al-Shibli, a Shi'ite lawmaker and member of the parliamentary legal committee.

"We have our own armed forces which are capable of protecting the country," he said.

A U.S. Marine carries a sand bag during the reinforcement of the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad, Iraq, January 4, 2020 Credit: Sgt. Kyle Talbot/אי־פי

Later Sunday, Iran-backed Iraqi militia commander Qais al-Khazali said if U.S. troops do not leave Iraq, they would be considered an occupying force. The U.S. sanctioned Khazali's Asaib Ahl al-Haq group on Friday, saying it was an Iranian proxy.

Despite decades of enmity between Iran and the United States, Iran-backed militia and U.S. troops fought side by side during Iraq's 2014-2017 war against Islamic State militants.

Around 5,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, most of them in an advisory capacity.

Also on Sunday, three Katyusha rockets fell in Baghdad, including two inside the capital's heavily fortified Green Zone housing government buildings and foreign missions, including the U.S. embassy, the Iraqi military said.

Rockets are not unusual in the Iraqi capital, but this made headlines given the circumstances. Six people were wounded after a rocket fell in the neighborhood of Jadriya, outside the Green Zone.

The Iraqi parliament's resolution specifically calls for ending an agreement in which Washington sent troops to Iraq more than four years ago to help in the fight against the Islamic State group.

The resolution is backed by most Shiite members of parliament, who hold a majority of seats.

The request was put forward Sunday by the largest bloc in the legislature, known as Fatah. That bloc includes leaders associated with the Iran-backed paramilitary Popular Mobilization Units, which were a major force in the fight against IS.

Many Sunni and Kurdish legislators did not show up for the session, apparently because they oppose abolishing the deal.

At the start of the session, 180 legislators of the 329-member parliament were present.

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