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Trump warns Iran of 'heavy price' in case of further attacks on US troops

Trump issued the warning via Twitter [Getty]

Date of publication: 1 April, 2020

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Tehran was warned against carrying out further attacks on US troops in the region on Wednesday, with the US president vowing a "heavy price".
President Donald Trump warned Iran on Wednesday of a "heavy price" if it or its allies in Iraq attack US troops stationed there.

"If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!" Trump tweeted.

The US president also wrote: "Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq." 

It was not clear whether Trump meant Washington actually has intelligence of such a plan.

The United States and Iran are in a tense battle for influence in Iraq, where Tehran has powerful allies, including among armed militias, and Washington has close ties to the government.

Some 7,500 foreign troops are in Iraq as part of the US-led coalition helping local troops fight jihadist groups, but those numbers are being significantly drawn down this month.

The alliance is temporarily bringing some trainers home as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus pandemic and is also leaving some Iraqi bases altogether.

Those bases and foreign embassies, particularly the American mission, have been targeted in more than two dozen rocket strikes since late October.

The attacks, which the US has blamed on an Iran-backed armed group, have prompted fears of a proxy war on Iraqi soil.

The warning came just a day after the leader of Iran's powerful overseas militia force visited Baghdad on Tuesday, as tensions with the US over Tehran-linked paramilitaries continued to rise.

Quds Force commander Esmail Ghaani met Iraqi politicians in Baghdad on Tuesday regarding the formation of a new government, RT reported on Tuesday.

Last week, US military sources told The New York Times that forces in Iraq were preparing an operation to "destroy" the Iran-backed Hezbollah Brigades in Iraq, who have been blamed for recent attacks on American troops.

Washington deployed Patriot missile batteries and radars to Erbil and Ain Al-Assad bases in northern Iraq this week, according to AFP, most likely to protect American troops from an increase in attacks by Iranian-linked militias. 

Both sites were targeted by Iranian ballistic missiles in January after the US assassination of Ghani's predecessor, Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.

It is not clear if the Baghdad government agreed to Patriot missile deployment, but Iraq's parliament earlier this year called for the expulsion of US troops.

The US was invited by the Iraqi government in 2014 to help in the fight the Islamic State group. Since the defeat of IS, it has been at loggerheads with elements in the Iran-linked paramilitary umbrella, the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF).

Meanwhile, a former Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) commander on Tuesday warned the US about its presence in Iraq, in the latest rise in tensions between the two countries.

"America should leave Iraq otherwise Iraqis will kick them out," he tweeted.

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