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Analysis

US in Iraq: Taking Advantage of ISIS for Military Stay

Thursday 2 November 2017
US in Iraq: Taking Advantage of ISIS for Military Stay

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Alwaght- Appearing with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Monday night that the American forces deployed to Iraq will hypothetically stay in that country until the ISIS terrorist group is fully defeated, even if the Iraqi government asked Washington to leave. Last week, Tillerson called on the Iranian-backed anti-terror forces in Iraq to pull out.

Tillerson remarks are seen as indicating that the US is cultivating plans for Iraq and even the whole West Asia region’s future now that the terrorist group is in its twilight after three years of barbarity in the region. Washington is trying to impose its military and security presence on Iraq and guarantee a long-term stay there under the excuse of combating till obliteration of ISIS and achieving full security of Iraq.

But the Americans' intention for return to the region, and especially Iraq, is coming face to face with a series of challenges, so firm that it will not be easy for them to weather. Here are the American limits in Iraq, and also the Washington’s paradoxical policies when it comes to Iraq’s developments.

Open contrariety to the security pact wit Iraq

The American troops' pullout from Iraq in 2011 under the security agreement, signed between Baghdad and Washington in December 2008, marked a turning point in post-Saddam Iraq's developments. The pact specified the limits put on the presence length and place of the American troops in Iraq. Having in mind that the Iraqi people along with the political factions show high sensitivity to exact implementation of the terms of the deal, the Americans will hardly be able to easily flout them. The Americans now are going to great lengths to ensure a return and lasting stay in Iraq as the country in 2014 came under attacks of ISIS, something provided Washington with justification for troop deployment at a time whem the Iraqi government was less sensitive and more thought about garnering anti-terror help.

It is apparent enough that the Trump administration’s policy does not live up to the spirit and terms of bilateral pact. The Secretary of State’s remarks on possibility of staying in Iraq even without the Iraq approval clearly runs counter to the international law and the Baghdad-Washington deal.

Unserious anti-terror war participation

The US has returned to Iraq afresh using ISIS card and wants to fix up its presence in the crisis-hit country using the same card. But this comes while three years ago and when the Iraqi army’s positions in such provinces as Mosul, Salahuddin, Diyala, Kirkuk, and parts of Babil and Baghdad the capital fell to the terrorist group, the government asked for help of the Americans according to the security pact, something turned down by the White House. The neighboring Iran, instead, candidly rushed to the help the Iraqis.

Now that ISIS is nearing its end on the strength of military and advisory backing of Tehran that helped Baghdad organize the army and the voluntary forces, Washington is trumpeting that it wants to obliterate ISIS in Iraq but in fact seeks curbing further Iranian influence in its neighbor for the final end of setting up roadblocks ahead of the Islamic Republic's regional policies and influence.

But the American counterterror efficiency is too meager to persuade the Iraq political circles to approve of return of foreign occupying forces to their country, especially that since American invasion of the country in 2003 that led to toppling of the dictator Saddam Hussein the Iraqi people have been struggling for peace and security, something looking like an unobtainable national dream. The Iraqis have the notion that the White House is a pursuer of its own regional policies under the mask of a counterterror partner who wants to destroy ISIS, an aim taken advantage of to boost presence in Iraq.

Playing with card of failed Kurdish referendum

The US has another card to play with: Failed Kurdish region’s referendum. Despite their officially stated policy of not supporting the Kurdish breakaway vote that was held on September 25, the Americans helped, on the sly, the Erbil leaders proceed with organizing the poll of late September. Reports suggest that Zalmay Khalilzad, the former US envoy to the UN and an advisor to the American decision makers at the State Department and Pentagon since 1980s, has been advising the Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, who is the driving force of Erbil's secessionist bid, on how to walk the way of separatist aspirations.

Paul Manafort, who joined last year Trump’s presidential campaign and served as its manager, is another American figure travelled to the regional capital of Erbil to consult Barzani’s allies on the poll. The New York Times in a report claimed that he also agreed to help an active effort seeking paving the way for the Western countries to recognize the referendum results. Further reports say that several months before the vote, Masrour Barzani, the son of Masoud Barzani and the Chancellor of Kurdistan Region Security Council, was linked to Manafort via some mediators.

Washington’s key aim behind embarking on this equivocal policy is expansion of its sway in Iraq through claims of supporting the unity of the country in a bid to wrest concessions from Baghdad officials for stay of its forces on the Iraqi soil. To put it differently, Washington tries to transform withholding support to the Kurds' secessionist agenda into an advantage card helping it continue presence in the post-ISIS Iraq.

Bringing under fire the most efficient anti-ISIS parties

The American Secretary of State's talk of the fighting to destroy ISIS in Iraq is coming while he during his October 23 visit of Iraq called on the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which play a strategic role in neutralization of the terrorist group in the country, to disband. Analysts suggest that it is paradoxical of the US policy to on the one hand talk about pursing the “strategic” objective of finishing ISIS in Iraq and on the other hand ask for disbandment of the key voluntary force behind annihilation of the terrorist group in the country. This, the analysts note, is indicative of dangerous American plans for the new Iraq.

On the other side, end of ISIS proved to be a highly vague concept in Tillerson comments. He told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that as long as ISIS is not finished in Iraq, the American military will be there. Now the question is what does he mean by finish of ISIS? Does he consider seizing Iraqi territories from the terrorists as marking end of the military operations of the American forces? If so then this will happen in near future and is feasible even without the American forces' participation. Or does he mean cleansing ISIS of Iraq’s western deserts and mountains close to the Syrian borders?  If yes then the remnants of ISIS in the mountainous areas and deserts are too weak to bear potentials of heavily impacting the Iraqi security prospectively. Perhaps the best answer to the questions was given earlier by the former American President Barack Obama who talked about prediction of ISIS stay in Iraq for the next three decades.

Tags :

Iraq US Presence ISIS Kurdistan Referendum

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