The Iraqi government experienced the full volatility of the Trump administration’s foreign policy over the last 24 hours or so. On Sunday, the president responded to the Iraqi parliament’s vote to expel U.S. troops with the threat of sanctions. “If they do ask us to leave, if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis, we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever,” Trump said. “It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.”
For a brief window on Monday afternoon, it appeared as if the United States respected Iraqi sovereignty after the gross violation of the strike last week that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and an Iraqi military official. Multiple reports addressed a letter from the Department of Defense to the Iraqi government announcing a full withdrawal of U.S. troops for the first time since the 2003 invasion. But the Pentagon scrambled to explain away the oddly worded, unsigned message: It was a draft that “should not have been released,” said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark A. Milley, who called it a mistake. (Hopefully the administration is more careful with the sword than the pen.)
The latest turn downward in Trump’s spiraling foreign-policy week took place on Monday night, when the Washington Post reported that senior administration officials are already in the process of drafting sanctions against Iraq. In summation, in well under a week, the U.S. rushed the approval process to kill a major foreign leader in another country for the first time since WWII; violated an ally’s sovereignty in the act; threatened war crimes against Iran twice, as one of its main proxy forces announced it would never consider U.S. civilian targets; and is preparing sanctions against an ally, which is not how sanctions work.
“I’m astounded by what’s even being discussed,” Peter Kucik, who served in the office of the Treasury Department that implements sanctions, told the Post. “You don’t typically use force against your allies. We are threatening to use extreme coercive policy tools against countries with whom we are allied.” Then again, administrations don’t typically declare the end of a 17-year war by accident.