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Endless War Is a Racket

President Donald J. Trump speaks with reporters during a briefing with military leadership members Wednesday, December 26, 2018, at the Al-Asad Airbase in Iraq. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The Trump administration is so determined to keep troops in Iraq that they are threatening to cut off Iraq from one of its main bank accounts if they refuse to allow it:

The Trump administration warned Iraq this week that it risks losing access to a critical government bank account if Baghdad kicks out American forces following the U.S. airstrike that killed a top Iranian general, according to Iraqi officials.

The State Department warned that the U.S. could shut down Iraq’s access to the country’s central bank account held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, a move that could jolt Iraq’s already shaky economy, the officials said.

This is the latest administration threat to punish Iraq for asserting its rights as a sovereign state, and it was accompanied by Pompeo’s neo-imperialist message telling Baghdad that the U.S. has no intention of withdrawing from the country. The Trump administration has abused U.S. financial clout many times over the past three years to wage economic war on other countries, but this may be the most irrational abuse of them all. The U.S. military presence in Iraq is ostensibly there to aid Iraq against ISIS, and our forces are there with their permission. If the Iraqi government no longer wants U.S. forces there, the administration has absolutely no right to insist that they stay.

Coercing another government to make them accept a military presence that they have already rejected is nothing less than an illegal attempt to keep occupying troops in their territory. If the Trump administration goes through with this, U.S. troops will be facing another insurgency in Iraq instead of coming home as they should. Most Iraqis are not going to accept such arrogant and heavy-handed measures, and no U.S. interests are served by doing this. The U.S. has already done an incalculable amount of damage to Iraq and its people over the last thirty years. Strangling Iraq’s economy to punish them for exercising their sovereignty is the sort of senseless cruelty that we have come to expect from this administration.

Iraq’s government has given Trump the perfect excuse to order a full U.S. withdrawal, but he refuses to accept their gift because he is so obsessed with hostility to Iran that he won’t order the troops out. Far from presiding over a “retreat” from the region as many pundits have claimed, Trump seems intent on increasing the U.S. military footprint in the region. So much for the fantasy that the president wants to bring the troops home. Not only is he not withdrawing troops, but he has increasingly been pursuing his policies in the region in an openly neo-imperialist fashion. Whether he is declaring his intention to steal Syrian oil as the reason for keeping troops there illegally or trying to coerce Iraq into accepting troops they don’t want, he sees these military deployments primarily in terms of how he can use them to extract resources or to dictate terms to the locals. All of this is wrong, and none of it has anything to do with advancing U.S. interests or making Americans more secure. Trump thinks he can use the military presence in Iraq as leverage to get them to fork over some cash, and he doesn’t want to give that up. Endless war is a racket, and Trump has no intention of ending it when he can run it instead.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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