Just hours after Iraq voted to expel US troops stationed in Iraq, Trump made it clear that he has no interest in vacating the nation that has been a stalwart US military outpost in the middle east for nearly two decades ever since it was invaded by, well, the US in search of non-existent weapons of mass destruction, and speaking to reporters on Air Force One said "we’re not leaving" unless Iraq "pays us back" for a US air base built in Iraq.
"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 the AF1 reporter pool.
That, however, wasn't enough, and Trump also made it clear that that in addition to billions in reimbursements, unless the US left on a "very friendly basis", the US would hit Iraq with "very big" sanctions like "they’ve never seen before ever."
"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."
And just to make it abundantly clear, Trump also added that "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 also addressed his Saturday threat to attack various Iranian cultural sites in retaliation to any escalation out of Tehran, threatening "major retaliation" on Iran if they "do anything" and saying that "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 sites? It doesn’t work that way."
“We will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever,” Trump says if Iraq’s government demands US leave. “It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.”— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) January 6, 2020
Amusingly, if Trump is indeed serious that Iraq will have to reimburse the US for its countless military bases, camps and other installations, the US will be able to repay its $23 trillion in debt (and have money leftover), when all is said and done: here is a partial list of the US camps in iraq:
- Camp Abu Naji / FOB Garry Owen (Al Amarah)
- Camp Adder also known as Tallil Air Base and Ali Air Base located in Nasiriyah
- Camp Al Adala / Camp Justice / Camp Bonzai (Kadhamiyah / Baghdad)
- Camp Al Amal / Camp Hope (Baghdad)
- Camp Al Asad (Al Asad Air Base)
- Camp Al-Hurya Al-Awal / Camp Freedom I / Camp Warhorse (Baqubah Air Field)
- Camp Al-Hurya Al-Thani (Green Zone)
- Camp Al-Isdehar (Al Salam)
- Camp Al-Istiglal (Baghdad Air Base)
- Camp Al-Khalis (Rock City F.O.B.)
- Camp Al-Nasr (Abu Ghurayb)
- Camp Al Qa'im (Al Qa'im train station, Al Anbar)
- Camp Al-Saqr (Rasheed Air Base)
- Camp Al-Sharaf / Camp Honor (Green Zone)
- Camp Al-Tadamum (Adhamiyah / Baghdad)
- Camp Al-Tahreer (Abu Ghurayb)
- Camp Al-Tawheed Al-Awal (Al Sijood)
- Camp Al-Tawheef Al-Thani (Al Sijood)
- Camp Al Watani (Green Zone)
- Camp Anaconda (Balad Air Base)
- Camp Anah / COP Anah
- Camp Andaluz (Kufa)
- Camp Anderson (Diwaniyah)
- Camp Apache / Camp Gunner Main
- Camp Arkansas (Al Salam)
- Camp Arrow (Ad Dawr)
- Camp Ashraf, also known as Camp New Iraq, located near Khalis
- Camp Avalanche (Abu Ghurayb)
- Camp Babylon
- Camp Baharia (Fallujah)
- Camp Balad (Bala Air Base)
- Camp Basilone (Qalat Sikar Air Base)
- Camp Basrah
- Camp Bastard / Camp Ellis (near Haqlaniyah / Barwanah ?)
- Camp Black Jack
- Camp Blackjack (Abu Ghurayb)
- Camp Blue Diamond (Ar Ramadi)
- Camp Bonzai (Kadhamiyah / Baghdad)
- Camp Boom (Baqubah)
- Camp Brassfield Mora (Samarra)
- Camp Bristol (BIAP)
- Camp Bucca, located near Umm Qasr
- Camp Buffalo (Tikrit)
- Camp Bulldog (Baghdad)
- Camp Bushmaster (Najaf)
- Camp Bushwaker
- Camp Buzz
- Camp Caldwell (Kirkush)
... This is just through the letter C - clearly there are many, many more. Click here for the full list.
In any event, earlier, Axios reported that The Trump administration tried to stop an Iraqi vote to expel the U.S. military from the country and citing unnamed sources, said that the Trump administration tried to persuade top Iraqi officials to kill the parliamentary effort. As a reminder, earlier on Sunday, Iraq's parliament voted to approve of the expulsion of the U.S. military following last week’s attack that killed Soleimani.
A US official told Axios that expelling the U.S. military from Iraq "would be inconvenient for us, but it would be catastrophic for Iraq", adding that "it's our concern that Iraq would take a short-term decision that would have catastrophic long-term implications for the country and its security."
"But it's also what would happen to them financially if they allowed Iran to take advantage of their economy to such an extent that they would fall under the sanctions that are on Iran," the official added. "We don't want to see that. We're trying very hard to work to have that not happen."
A senior Iraqi official told Axios that many Kurdish and Sunni members of parliament, who tend to be more supportive of the U.S. presence in Iraq, did not attend the vote to expel the U.S. presence.
"This is a temporary victory for the parties which are pro-Iranian," the official told Axios. "But it's also a clear message from the Sunnis and from the Kurds [who didn't vote] and from some Iraqi Shia for the Americans to tell them we want you to stay in Iraq.