U.S. president threatens Iraq with sanctions if it expels American troops, cautions Tehran against seeking vengeance for Soleimani killing
U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday warned Iran against seeking vengeance for America’s assassination of commander Qassem Soleimani, posting on Twitter that Washington had identified 52 Iranian sites that would be subsequently targeted in a tit-for-tat move.
“Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level and important to Iran and the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!” he said, as he defended the Baghdad airstrike that killed Soleimani for ridding the world of a “terrorist leader.”
In a subsequent tweet, Trump claimed Soleimani’s killing had been a retaliatory decision by the U.S. “If they [Tehran] attack again, which I would strongly advise them not to do, we will hit them harder than they have ever been hit before!”
He added that Washington had spent $2 trillion on military equipment that would be utilized against Tehran in case of any further actions from the Gulf state. “The United States just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment. We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World! If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way…and without hesitation!” he said.
Trump’s tweets come after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed “harsh revenge” for the death of Soleimani. Iran also announced it would further reduce compliance with a nuclear deal designed to curtail its nuclear aspirations, claiming it would no longer limit the number of centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Angry, black-clad mourners, meanwhile, took to the streets of Mashhad on Sunday to pay last respects to the remains of Soleimani and chant “death to America.”
Critics have warned that Trump’s threat to target Iran’s cultural heritage sites would qualify as a war crime under international law. Iran is home to around two-dozen UNESCO-listed sites. “They’re allowed to kill our people,” a defiant Trump said. “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.”
The U.S. president also hit out at ostensible ally Iraq, ties with which have deteriorated over Washington targeting Soleimani while he was in Baghdad. Unidentified attackers on Sunday launched a pair of rockets that struck near the U.S. embassy in the high-security Green Zone for the second night in a row.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s parliament voted to request the government end an agreement with a U.S.-led international coalition to fight the Islamic State militant group in the region. If the government agrees, that would effectively require the departure of some 5,200 U.S. soldiers supporting local troops in the anti-I.S. fight. Trump told reporters a forced departure of U.S. troops would prompt sanctions on Iraq even worse than those already imposed on Iran’s economy. “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,” Trump said. “It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.” He claimed the U.S. would not leave Iraq unless Baghdad paid it back for the main American base in the country, which was “very extraordinarily expensive.”