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Iran Trying to Push US Forces From Iraq in Every Way Possible

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Iran Trying to Push US Forces From Iraq in Every Way Possible

Iran Trying to Push US Forces From Iraq in Every Way Possible
January 30
20:51 2020

According to US military and state department officials, Iran is using every means possible to try to force all American troops out of Iraq.

Iran has always wanted American forces out of Iran, however, according to the Military Times, the U.S. killing of an Iranian general and an Iraqi militia commander in Baghdad has added new impetus to the effort, stoking anti-American feelings that Tehran hopes to exploit to help realize its goal.

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The Jan. 3 killing of Quds force leader, Major General Qassem Soleimani, has led Iraq’s parliament to call for the ouster of all U.S. troops, but there are many lingering questions over whether Iran will be able to capitalize on the sentiment.

But experts say Iran can be counted on to try to seize what it sees as an opportunity to push its anti-America agenda in Iraq, despite an ongoing mass uprising that is targeting government corruption as well as Iranian influence in the country.

“Iran is unconstrained by considerations of Iraqi sovereignty, domestic public opinion, or legality when compared to the Western democracies,” said David Des Roches, an expert with The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. “That stance is to Iran’s strategic advantage; they should be expected to press it.”

A withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq would be a victory for Iran, and Tehran has long pursued a two-pronged strategy of supporting anti-U.S. militias that carry out attacks, as well as exerting political pressure on Iraqi lawmakers sympathetic to its cause.

Uptick in Anti-American Violence

Despite usually trying to keep attacks at a level below what might provoke an American response, Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah, fired a barrage of rockets at a military base in Kirkuk in December, killing a U.S. contractor and wounding several U.S. and Iraqi troops. The U.S. responded first with deadly airstrikes on Iran-affiliated militia bases in western Iraq and Syria, then followed with the Jan. 3 drone attack that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most powerful military officer, along with Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis as they left Baghdad’s airport.

The severity of the U.S. response surprised Iran and others, but, it had the unanticipated result of bolstering Tehran’s political approach by prompting the Iraqi parliament to pass the nonbinding resolution pushed by pro-Iran political factions calling for the expulsion of all foreign troops from the country. In response, President Donald Trump has threatened sanctions on Iraq.

“What they want to do is get rid of U.S. troops in what they see as a legitimate political manner,” said Dina Esfandiary, a London-based expert with The Century Foundation think tank. “If Iraqis themselves are voting out U.S. troops, it looks a lot better for Iran than if Iran is a puppet master in Iraq trying to get rid of them — and on top of that it would be a more lasting decision.”

The legitimacy of the resolution is a matter of dispute. Not only was the session boycotted by Kurdish lawmakers and many Sunnis, but there also are questions of whether Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has the ability to carry it out. Abdul-Mahdi resigned in November amid mass anti-government protests but remains in a caretaker role.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo bluntly rejected the call for the troops’ removal, instead saying Washington would “continue the conversation with the Iraqis about what the right structure is.”

While the resolution is being debated, the U.S. in the meantime, has resumed joint operations with Iraqi forces, albeit on a more limited basis than before.

President Trump met Iraqi President Barham Saleh last week on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland, and said Washington and Baghdad have had “a very good relationship” and that the two countries had a “host of very difficult things to discuss.” Saleh said they have shared common interests including the fight against extremism, regional stability and an independent Iraq.

Asked about the plan for U.S. troops in Iraq, Trump said, “We’ll see what happens.”

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Michael F. Strong

Michael F. Strong

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