'Less than a week after millions of Iraqis took to the streets demanding the U.S. military leave for good, the United States announced that is planning to build three new military bases in Iraq,according to military news service Breaking Defense. The three sites chosen – Erbin, Sulimania and Halabja – are all extremely close to Iran, with Halabja (the site of the 1988 chemical weapons attack) just eight miles from the border.
The news will come as a shock to the Iraqi parliament, who earlier this month voted overwhelmingly (with some abstentions) to expel American forces from the country. But the U.S. government has flatly refused to leave. “At this time, any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership — not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East,” said State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, adding, “We strongly urge Iraqi leaders to reconsider the importance of the ongoing economic and security relationship between the two countries… We believe it is in the shared interests of the United States and Iraq to continue fighting ISIS together.” Earlier this month the U.S. decided to send an extra 3,000 troops to the region.
President Trump responded by threatening sweeping mass punishments against the Iraqi people. “We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it…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,” he said. U.S.-led sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s are thought to have killed over one million people, including over half a million young children. Successive U.N. diplomats in charge of Iraq during the sanctions denounced them as genocide against its people. Trump said his sanctions would make the ones on Iran look tame by comparison.
“If there’s any hostility,” he said, “we are going to put sanctions on Iraq, very big sanctions.” Trump also threatened to commit genocide against the people of Iran, destroying their cultural heritage sites in a move condemned by many and compared to the Taliban’s destruction of the world-renowned Buddhas of Bamyan in Afghanistan. Despite the president’s threats, enormous numbers of Iraqis heeded Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s call for a “million man march” in Baghdad last week. While Timemagazine claimed there were only “hundreds” in attendance, drone footage told a very different story. Some estimates put the total at over 2.5 million. And despite Bloomberg Quick Take originally claiming that they were “anti-government demonstrations,” the huge banner on the main stage reading “GET OUT AMERICA” in uppercase English letters suggested otherwise.
Read more: US Announces Three New Bases in Iraq After Iraqis Demand Full Withdrawal