By Jason Ditz
Last week, Iraq’s parliament voted to expel US troops from the country. The US claims they’ve not heard of that. Iraqi PM Adel Abdul Mahdi spoke with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the State Department is trying to dodge specific comment. US officials insist, either way, that they don’t intend to leave.
The truth is uglier than that. Not only is the Trump Administration refusing a perfectly lawful Iraqi decision to revoke permission to keep troops in their country, they have also threatened a series of sanctions that would cripple the Iraqi economy virtually overnight.
Iraq made the unwise decision, earlier in the US occupation, to set up a bank account at the New York Federal Reserve for the Oil Ministry to handle all money from international oil sales. Banker to the world, but only if the US feels like it.
That account holds substantially all oil trade revenue, and that is a substantial part of Iraq’s government’s entire revenue. The US is now threatening to block Iraqi access to this account, and with it virtually their entire treasury, if they expel US troops.
The US froze this account very briefly in 2015 and it did major damage to the Iraqi economy, causing a panic. This freeze is a threat of a more permanent type, and would all but bankrupt Iraq overnight.
Iraqi bank officials expressed doubt the US would do this, noting it would cause a permanent break in US-Iraqi relations. Since President Trump seems to view the sum total of US interests in Iraq being a place to keep the military, however, and seems more than willing to do anything to make an example of Iraq for not letting the US stay.
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