US President Donald Trump threatened sanctions against Baghdad after Iraq’s parliament called on US troops to leave the country, and the president said if troops did leave, Baghdad would have to pay Washington 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 US 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.”
After his top diplomat, Mike Pompeo, had insisted that any military action would conform to international law, Trump said he would regard cultural sites as fair game if Iran resorted to deadly force against US targets.
“They’re allowed to kill our people, 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 told reporters. “If they do anything there will be major retaliation.”
His comments on his return from a break in Florida followed a welter of criticism over a tweet on Saturday night in which he said sites which were “important to… Iranian culture” were on a list of 52 potential US targets.
Tehran’s foreign minister had reacted to those initial comments by drawing parallels with the Islamic State group’s destruction of the Middle East’s cultural heritage.
And as Twitter was flooded with photos of revered Iranian landmarks in ancient cities such as Isfahan under the hashtag #IranianCulturalSites, leading US Democrats said the president would be in breach of international protocols if he made good on his threat.
“You are threatening to commit war crimes,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the top Democrats hoping to challenge Trump in November’s election, wrote on Twitter.
“We are not at war with Iran. The American people do not want a war with Iran.”