President Donald Trump has threatened Iraq with severe sanctions after its parliament called on US troops to leave the country.
The president told reporters: “We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that’s there. It cost billions of dollars to build. We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it.”
Tensions are high after the US assassinated Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad last week.
Meanwhile, Iran has vowed “severe revenge”.
The 62-year-old general spearheaded Iranian military operations in the Middle East and was regarded as a terrorist by the US.
Qasem Soleimani’s remains have now returned to Iran, where mourners packed the streets of Tehran on January 6.
Esmail Qaani, the new head of Iran’s Quds force – which Qasem Soleimani led – has vowed to expel the US from the Middle East.
Iran’s state radio quoted Esmail Qaani as saying: “We promise to continue martyr Soleimani’s path with the same force… and the only compensation for us would be to remove America from the region.”
The air strike that killed Qasem Soleimani also claimed the life of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a top Iraqi military figure who commanded the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah group.
Speaking from the presidential plane, President Trump said that if Iraq asked US forces to depart on an unfriendly basis, “we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before, ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame”.
Some 5,000 US soldiers are in Iraq as part of the international coalition against the ISIS group.
On January 5, the coalition paused its operations against ISIS in Iraq, and Iraqi lawmakers passed a non-binding resolution calling for foreign troops to leave.
The resolution was pushed through by the parliament’s Shia Muslim bloc – which is close to Iran.
Meanwhile, Iran has announced it will no longer abide by restrictions imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal, under which it agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow in international inspectors in return for the lifting of economic sanctions.
President Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, saying he wanted to force Iran to negotiate a new deal that would place indefinite curbs on its nuclear program and also halt its development of ballistic missiles.
However, Iran refused and had since been gradually rolling back its commitments under the deal.
In a statement, Iran said it would no longer observe limitations on its capacity for enrichment, the level of enrichment, the stock of enriched material, or research and development.
European leaders, from Germany, France and the UK – which were all signatories to the 2015 deal, alongside China and Russia – responded with a joint statement urging Iran to refrain from “further violent action or proliferation”.