Germany says Trump threat to impose sanctions on Iraq ‘not very helpful’

Foreign minister says Baghdad should be convinced with arguments, not threats; Germany, France and Britain to decide this week on response to Iran bypassing limits on enrichment

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas leaves the Elysee presidential palace after attending the weekly Cabinet meeting on June 19, 2019 in Paris. (ludovic Marin/AFP)
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas leaves the Elysee presidential palace after attending the weekly Cabinet meeting on June 19, 2019 in Paris. (ludovic Marin/AFP)

BERLIN — US President Donald Trump’s threat to slap sanctions on Iraq should Baghdad expel US troops based there “is not very helpful,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Monday.

“I don’t think you can convince Iraq with threats, but with arguments,” Maas told Deutschlandfunk radio, warning that years-long efforts to rebuild Iraq “could all be lost” if the situation escalates.

Trump earlier vowed to hit Iraq with sanctions “like they’ve never seen before” if US troops are forced to leave the country.

The threat came after Iraqi lawmakers voted on Sunday to request the government end an agreement with a US-led international coalition to fight the hardline Islamist group IS in the region.

Illustrative: In this Jan. 27, 2018, file photo, US Army soldiers speak to families in rural Anbar on a reconnaissance patrol near a coalition outpost in western Iraq. (AP Photo/Susannah George, File)

Tensions have soared following the killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani by a US drone strike in Baghdad on Friday.

A furious Tehran has since announced a further step back from its commitments to the 2015 nuclear accord, leaving the future of the hard-fought pact in doubt.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin as they attend a news conference following a summit on Syria, in Istanbul, October 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Maas will travel to Moscow Saturday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid escalating tensions following a US drone strike that killed an Iranian general, a German government spokesman said.

Merkel will discuss “the current conflict troublespots” with Putin, including the Iran and Iraq crisis following the US assassination in Baghdad, as well as the conflict in Syria and unrest in Libya, Steffen Seibert said.

European leaders have called for an urgent de-escalation of tensions, but Maas admitted that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had hoped for more full-throated backing from allies.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) shakes hands with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the State Department in Washington, DC, on October 3, 2018. (AFP Photo/Jim Watson)

“Apparently he wasn’t too happy that we didn’t 100 percent support America’s actions,” Maas said after Pompeo spoke by phone with his German, French and British counterparts.

Maas said it was important that the European Union presented a united stance so it could play a meaningful role in helping to cool tempers.

“Our own security interests are massively affected by the fight in Iraq against international terrorism, against IS, so we have a responsibility here,” he said.

“I think it’s necessary that the EU foreign ministers quickly convene in Brussels to coordinate a European position.”

He also said Germany, France and Britain would decide this week how to react to Iran’s decision to forego the limit on enrichment it had pledged to honor in the nuclear agreement.

“We can’t just accept this without responding,” Maas said.

“It certainly doesn’t make things easier and it could be the first step towards the end of the deal and that would be a great loss.”

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