Alwaght– The withdrawal of the US forces from Syria which was announced by President Donald Trump last week is reflecting its effects on the region, especially on Iraq. According to informed sources, the US administration intends to station its troops in Iraq after pullout from Syria.
The intention has drawn a set of negative reactions from various Iraqi sides in the Iraqi politics. The Iraqi government was the first party to openly oppose the decision. Even the Ministry of Defense in the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) stressed that it will not make any decision on hosting the relocated American troops before consulting the central government in Baghdad.
Amer al-Fayez, the representative from Al-Bana’a Coalition in the Iraqi parliament has said that the federal Iraqi government rejected to bow to pressures from the US. He said that new forces’ entry to Iraq is rejected by the Iraqis, adding that Washington has so far put heavy strains on the Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi but he refused to show any green light to the idea.
As the local media talk about the government’s resistance to the US pressures, reports begin to come out that the parliament and the government has begun a joint effort to pass a law that will require the American forces currently operating in the country to leave Iraq as the war on ISIS terrorist group has ended.
But what is motivating the Iraqi government to oppose the American intention to deploy new forces to Iraq and even try to pass a bill on the case?
Rising pro-independence spirit and people’s opposition to the occupation
The key drive behind the Iraqi political parties and government’s rejection of the US decision is the rising wave of pro-independence approach, which appears to grow nationwide under the new developments. Since 2003, the year the US-led coalition toppled Saddam Hussein and occupied the Arab country, the Iraqi people suffered under the occupation which automatically brought foreign meddling in the nation’s affairs, including the politics. But now they more than any other time have grown thirsty for freedom from foreign intervention.
The people exhibited this pro-independence spirit during the May parliamentary election. During the fourth parliamentary election, the Iraqis voted for candidates from blocs with anti-American agenda, mainly Saeroon and Fatah, the long-time opponents of the American stay in Iraq. The May election sent a clear message to the politicians: The new government should work on American forces’ exit from the country.
The highest levels of Iraqi politics are heavily laden with mistrust in the US. This lack of confidence is even observable in the Kurdish leaders. Now the Kurdistan region has concluded, after years of falling victim to the American games, that Washington, just contrary to its claims, does not work toward the progress and stabilization of Iraq. The American presence, they think, helped nurture terrorism in the county which culminated in the emergence of ISIS terror organization in 2014, which inflicted on Iraq the heaviest ever destruction as the campaign to defeat it took over three years. The Kurds’ opposition to the US deployment is also driven by a desire to de-escalate tensions with Baghdad after the 2017 independence referendum. Masoud Barzani has recently visited Baghdad showing a will to break the Baghdad-Erbil political chill and begin a new chapter. The Kurds, in fact, do not want to stir another costly encounter with the central government by agreeing with the US intention.
In fact, just unlike the initial years of Iraq occupation when some Iraqi political sides set hopes on the US army to restore calm, in the new situation the political elites and public are strongly against the US military intervention and stay in their country. Now the Iraqis deem the US a detriment to their interests and national security. The Iraqi citizens remember the US double standards and its betrayal of them when the ISIS seized their cities but Washington did not defend them as the security pact between the two countries requested. Based on the bitter experience of relations with the US, the Iraqi officials did not yield to the pressures asking them to allow the American forces to stay beyond 2011. Their resistance forced the White House to remove a large part of its forces from Iraq.
Avoiding being a ground for regional crises
There is a second reason for Baghdad to reject to take in the American troops. Baghdad does not want to be an alternative ground to the regional crises and tensions. The Trump administration has a plan to place its forces in the Kurdish region in a bid to pressure Iran and challenge its position in Iraq. This serves a final aim to curb the growth of friendly relations between Tehran and Baghdad. The prerequisite to such a scenario is destabilization of Iraq which is achievable if the Americans’ exit from Syria will open the door to a Kurdish-Turkish confrontation and thus reemergence of ISIS in eastern Syria. The reemergence of ISIS can give the White House the pretext to add to its already serving troops in Iraq.
This is what arouses the ire of the Iraqi officials. They very brazenly address the Americans, calling on them to refrain from embroiling Iraq in the regional crises. The Iraqi President Barham Salih has recently commented on the American withdrawal saying that a genuine pullout of Syria should result in a peace based on respect to the Syrian people and their decisions in the future rather than usher in a new phase of clashes and meddling in this country. He also called for observation of the Iraqi circumstances, saying Iraq should not once again shoulder the burden of regional and international tensions. The remarks by the Iraqi president can be read as an open message of rejection of the American dispatch of forces from Syria to Iraq.