Washington on Friday spurned an Iraqi request to prepare to pull out its troops, amid heightened U.S.-Iranian tensions after the U.S. killing of an Iranian commander in Baghdad, and said it was exploring a possible expansion of NATO’s presence there.
President Donald Trump said in an interview with Fox News that if Iraq wanted the United States to leave, he would tell them: “You have to pay us for the money we put in.”
He said the United States has $35 billion of Iraq’s money “sitting in an account.”
“I think they’ll agree to pay. Otherwise we’ll stay there,” Trump said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi made his request for preparations for a U.S. troop withdrawal in a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday in line with a vote in Iraq’s parliament last week, his office said.
Abdul-Mahdi asked Pompeo to “send delegates to put in place the tools to carry out the parliament’s decision,” his office said in a statement, adding that the forces used in the killing had entered Iraq or used its airspace without permission.
The State Department said any U.S. delegation would not discuss the withdrawal of U.S. troops as their presence in Iraq was “appropriate.”
“There does, however, need to be a conversation between the U.S. and Iraqi governments not just regarding security, but about our financial, economic, and diplomatic partnership,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.