US President Donald Trump has threatened to impose severe sanctions on Baghdad in response to the Iraqi parliament’s decision to remove US forces from Iraqi territory. According to the Washington Post reports, Trump said: “We will withdraw our forces from Iraq, but Iraq must first pay the construction costs of the US air force base,” he added, “we ​​will not leave Iraq unless they pay us the costs of building this base.[1]”

“If Iraq asks the American forces to leave the country for unfriendly reasons, we will charge [Iraq] sanctions as they’ve never seen before, ever,” Trump said to reporters on the presidential plane.

He said that the sanctions that will be imposed on Iraq will “make the Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.”

The New York Times reports that there are about 5,200 American soldiers in Iraq, as well as several British forces that are part of the international coalition forces to fight against ISIS in this country[2].

In the aftermath of the American attack on the commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Major General Qassim Soleimani, and the deputy head of the PMF, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, near Baghdad International Airport, on Sunday 5, December 2020, the Iraqi parliament approved a draft resolution to end the presence of foreign forces on Iraqi soil[3].

While we await further clarification on the legal nature and impact of today’s resolution, we strongly urge Iraqi leaders to reconsider the importance of the ongoing economic and security relationship between the two countries and the continued presence of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS,” spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement[4].

Sanctions are expected to be imposed, and there are indications of Washington’s seriousness if Iraq insists on implementing the Iraqi parliament’s decision to end the presence of foreign forces in Iraq[5]. The most important of which are:

  • The sanctions on the Central Bank of Iraq will affect Iraq by cutting its main source of the dollar because its account in the Federal Reserve Bank in New York can be frozen in the event of sanctions. Iraq deposits its oil sales there and withdraws money from the bank to pay the salaries and the government contracts. Statistics of the Ministry of Oil indicate that Iraq’s crude production is stable at 4.46 million barrels per day in line with OPEC’s share, and was not affected by recent events in OPEC[6].
  • The United States can end the exemptions that allow Iraq to buy Iranian gas to fuel power stations in the south, which provide at least 35% of the country’s energy[7]. Iraq can replace this or search for another source, but it may be difficult to find an alternative source in a short period. The second option is the rationalization of electricity consumption. This option is very easy, but it has consequences for the residents of the southern provinces, as it can cause unrest there once the temperature rises like what happened in 2018.
  • The exit of foreign companies, including American companies that work in oil fields, if they become concerned about the safety of their workers. Several American contractors left in the days following the death of Major General Soleimani.
  • Iraq will be deprived of aid for reconstruction, such as the USAID, the United States Agency for International Development, and the United Nations Development Program. About 6.7 million Iraqis need humanitarian assistance this year, and millions of people are in urgent need of assistance in the liberated areas, especially the displaced people, to return to their homes in the foreseeable future[8].
  • Iraq will lose the support of the international coalition that arms and trains the Iraqi forces. This will be harmful to military institutions. In fact, the Iraqi forces are still far from self-sufficient despite years of funding and training by the international coalition. According to the quarterly American Military Inspector General report to the Congress, published on October 25, 2019, it states that “the capabilities of the Iraqi forces have not reached the required level, and that their ability has not been effectively exploited or does not really exist without the help of the coalition.[9]”

It is unlikely that these sanctions will include the Kurdistan region, as the situation is completely different for the Kurds. However, if the sanctions are implemented in Iraq, this will be fully reflected in the social, economic, political and security conditions. Also, it will cost Iraq a lot of material and moral losses. These events bring to mind the economic embargo imposed by the United Nations on Iraq in 1990 due to the second Gulf War, especially the decisions (661, 665, and 670).


[1]After Trump’s threat, administration begins drafting possible sanctions against Iraq.

[2]U.S. Says It Won’t Discuss Withdrawing Troops From Iraq, Defying Baghdad’s Request.

[3]مجلس النواب يصوت على قرار نيابي بإنهاء تواجد القوات الاجنبية في العراق.

[4]U.S. Disappointed in Iraqi Parliament Vote, Urges Reconsideration.

[5]As U.S.-Iran Tensions Flare, Iraq Is Caught in the Middle.

[6]Iraqi oil output steady at 4.46 mil b/d, in line with OPEC quota: ministry.

[7]As U.S.-Iran Tensions Flare, Iraq Is Caught in the Middle.

[8]USAID: 6.7 million people in Iraq need assistance, few IDPs to return home soon.

[9]Operation Inherent Resolve, Report to the United States Congress, July 1, 2019-October 25, 2019-P 54.