Just days after Iraqi parliament passed a bill to expel US forces, Iraqi prime minister indicated he may already be backing down, now specifying training and logistical support for the Iraqi military could stay.
President Trump warned that the United States would not leave Iraq until the country paid the United States for the military base built there.
“We have a very extraordinarily expensive airbase 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 said.
The Guardian reports officials in Iraq have stepped back from threats to expel US forces after Donald Trump threatened to impose sanctions over the Iraqi parliament’s vote for retaliation for the killing of the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani in Baghdad by a US drone strike.
The military spokesman for the acting Iraqi prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, who met the US ambassador on Monday to implement the decision, said any withdrawal would involve only combat forces and not training and logistical support for the Iraqi military, which have been core components of the US presence in Iraq in recent years.
Iraq’s conflicting signals and Trump’s rhetoric underline the tensions that continue to surround the killing, which has deeply unsettled the region and left many Iraqi officials scrambling as Washington and Tehran square up to each other.
In a clear sign of the confusion, a letter was disclosed on Monday in which the US commanding general in Iraq, Brigadier William Seely, informed his Iraqi counterparts that US forces in the country would be repositioning “to ensure that movement out of Iraq is conducted in a safe and efficient manner”.
Soon afterwards, the defence secretary, Mark Esper, said no decision over a withdrawal had been made, and General Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said the document was a “poorlyworded draft”.
The US president’s threats to impose sanctions on Iraq that will “make Iranian sanctions seem somewhat tame” led some Iraqi MPs to urge a softening of the parliament’s position. One Iraqi MP said Trump’s unpredictability made such a move risky when US air support in particular might still be needed to prevent a resurgence of Islamic State.
Read more here.