Iraq is studying the repercussions of the sudden US withdrawal from Syria in light of a worrying security situation on the borders of the two countries, where Iraqi President Barham Salih discussed with Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi the political developments in the region. The President of the Republic of Iraq Barham Saleh said on Saturday that Iraq and the region need a political settlement of the Syrian crisis, stressing that the US withdrawal from Syrian territory should be a helping factor to achieve peace, not to start a new phase of violence and interventions. A statement from the presidency revealed that Salih has discussed with Abdul-Mahdi the most important events and political developments in the region , and stressing the importance of establishing stability and peace in the region away from escalation and tension, and the need to rely on calm and serious dialogue to spare the region more conflicts » ,and quoted from Salih as saying the importance of support the government and its efforts to implement the governmental approach adopted by the political and national forces, in addition to the national unity and strengthen the cohesion among the national forces in order to achieve the aspirations of citizens to improve services and provide employment opportunities, calling to meet the legitimate demands of our people in many of our dear provinces and cities.
In a related context, the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo assured Abdul Mahdi that the United States remains committed to fighting the Islamic State Organization in Iraq and other areas, despite the planned withdrawal of its troops from Syria. Office of abdul Mahdi said in a statement that the Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi received a telephone call from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during which he explained the reasons for the expected withdrawal from Syria, and stressed that the United States continues its obligations to fight ISIS and terrorism in Iraq and the rest of the regions. “Abdul Mahdi and Pompio also discussed the decision of Washington to grant Iraq an extended period of 90 days to exempt it from the sanctions imposed on Iran, which will allow Baghdad to continue to import Iranian gas important for the production of energy in Iraq.
Trump’s decision brings to mind the steps taken by his predecessor, former US President Barack Obama, to withdraw from Iraq in 2011, which provoked harsh criticism to the previous administration by many politicians, including the current president himself. Critics of Obama’s decision said then that this resolution has greatly contributed to increasing Iranian influence in Iraq, resulting the spread of chaos in Iraqi cities that ultimately led to the spread of extremist militias that resulted in the birth of a terrorist organization ISIS that in 2014 managed to control predominantly Sunni cities which poses a great threat for US interests in the region.
The US withdrawal from Iraq has greatly undermined the trust of Washington’s allies, especially in the Gulf region, in the policies adopted by the Obama administration, which has contributed to a widening gap in relations between the two sides because of its risk to the security of the countries of the region for the benefit of Tehran under its destabilizing activities . But the US move under Obama is largely in line with his strategy, based on rapprochement with Tehran, which was evident in his leadership of the international efforts that led to the conclusion of the nuclear agreement between Tehran and the major international powers in July 2015, the agreement in which Trump withdrew from in May, announcing his desire to conclude a new agreement that would contain the growing Iranian influence in the region, which Washington sees as the main cause of the chaos in the region at this stage.
The American decision appears to be in sharp contrast to Trump’s strategy, which seeks to contain Iranian influence in the region where the US military withdrawal from Syria represents a rare opportunity for Tehran to impose its vision in the region at the present stage and give it greater influence in the role it plays in other countries, especially Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen, in addition to its alliance with Russia, which has the highest word in Syria, which helps it to tighten its grip on matters inside Syria in the next phase in addition to facilitating its task of smuggling arms to the Lebanese Party ( Hezbullah) loyal to Tehran across the Syrian territory, which poses a clear threat to Israel’s security.
Observers believe that the withdrawal “paved the way for Iran to consolidate its influence in the region through a land corridor linking it to the Mediterranean Sea, a goal that has always been sought by Tehran an objected dashington.” Analysts believe that this scenario enables Iran to redraw the map of the region, because this land corridor links its territories to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Critics of US President Donald Trump’s decision said that Iran will be allowed to achieve a strategic goal, as preventing it from achieving it was one of the top priorities of US policy in the Middle East. It is clear that it is a strategic victory for Tehran … it will be allowed to break the buffer zone established by the West between Syria and Iraq and then settle there. ”
The newspaper “Washington Post” stressed that “Daash” is still a lethal terrorist force, and reported attacks by militants in Syria and Iraq recently, citing a senior security officials in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Masroor Barzani, where he told the newspaper that “ISIS ” are reorganizing themselves and restore their activity and we are witnessing the return of Daash fighters in the area from Syria to Anbar and Mosul as their doctrine is there, and they still have large numbers of followers.” There is an American and global consensus on the bad way (and timing) of the American presidential decision as the reality of the terrorist organization “ISIS” in Iraq has not changed much, and everyone knows that its elements are transformed from fighting and confrontation into a state of indulgence in local communities. ,and work in the form of sleeping cells , Iraqi intelligence believes that the terrorist organization is still strong, and represents a lethal force in large parts of their territory, and has cadres of leadership and fighters in a significant number, and well trained, and filled with faith firmly and fully.
The question is: Will US troops be assigned to Iraq after withdrawing from Syria?
Despite the announcement of the start of the withdrawal of its troops from Syria and Afghanistan, but the United States, in the words of observers for the Iraqi issue, “keen to maintain its military , diplomatic and economic presence in Iraq.” They say that Baghdad received assurances that it was “outside the redeployment plans of US forces in both Syria and Afghanistan.” These assurances were conveyed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the political leadership in Baghdad, represented by President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. US secretary of state told the Iraqi president, “the requirements and reasons for the decision to withdraw from Syria,” stressing that “the United States continues its obligations to fight ISIS and terrorism in Iraq.”
According to observers of the Iraqi issue, leaving Iraq is impossible for the United States, while others say that what happened in Syria will be in the interest of Iraq. For them, the United States will now be able to devote itself to Iraqi file if its military presence in Syria is reduced, while Iraqi territory will be transformed into a yard to monitor the situation in Syria by the US military. And the US military are gathering in” Ain al-Assad” , it is the largest airbase west of Iraq, and the closest point of military gathering to the Iraqi-Syrian border. According to military experts, the Americans have made substantial adjustments to the infrastructure of this base to meet their current requirements and ensure their long-term survival. Observers say that “the similarities between Afghanistan and Syria are non-existent, so the United States may withdraw completely from the first, but will inevitably maintain foothold in the second. ” “Any American presence in Syria necessarily means a constant need for permanent support from inside Iraqi territory,” observers say.
But the United States will not strengthen its actual military presence in Iraq “as much as it will work to establish it and ensure its effectiveness ,” according to Iraqi sources familiar with Iraqi leaders’ discussions with the United States .Baghdad and Washington agree that there is no need to increase the number of US troops in Iraq, after eliminating the most important threat posed by the rise of the Daash organization and the significant improvement in the readiness of Iraqi forces.
The observers for the Iraqi issue see that the situation of Iraq is a special case for the United States, compared to Syria and Afghanistan. “No one can wonder, for example, what are US forces doing in Iraq? These forces protect America’s huge economic interests in Iraq first, and secondly, they exist to protect and stabilize the US-invented regime that seems unable to move to the stage of proving its patriotism, which is evident in its low popularity. “The United States abandoned its presence in Syria Because there is no place for it there because of the lack of interests while in Afghanistan, the United States is on the way to recognize the failure to put an end to the presence of the Taliban, which is stronger than the government there.
They considered that the new Iraq is an American industry par excellence, the Americans are afraid to slip from their hands to the Iranian incubator completely, then be the savior of Iran in the face of sanctions imposed on it. And here the equation is clear that in exchange of the security provided by the US forces to the Iraqi government on its present and future, the latter has the duty to implement its international obligations in order not to violent the sanctions imposed on Iran which is not opposed by the governments of Baghdad and Erbil, although there are voices loyal to Iran, silencing it is not difficult. Which is understood by hinting at the issue of a return of ISIS to his hostile activity.
In the light of all the above: Are there US-Iraqi arrangements after the withdrawal from Syria? According to military experts, the new arrangements between Baghdad and Washington include an “exchange of roles” between the Iraqi army and his US counterpart in a number of areas of the Syrian east bordering the Iraqi border, allowing US forces to leave Syria and redeployment in areas west of Anbar. The military analysis , which followed the negotiations between Baghdad and Washington say , US allows the Iraqi forces to incursion for about 70 kilometers inside the Syrian depth, if the movements of the organization of ISIS poses any threat to the border, explaining that “the Syrian side is aware of these arrangements.” They also say that the US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, suggested to Iraqi officials, that the Iraqi forces to cover part of the depth of Syria, during the phase of the US withdrawal from the eastern regions, and assess the situation on the ground to be left to the US.
Experts say the replacement of US troops with Iraqi forces in some parts of the east is aimed at calming the Turkish side, which is wary of any US support for Syrian democratic forces dominated by Kurds . In order to protect the border, Iraqi forces will be able to move in a wide strip, the back side of Syria’s democratic forces inside Syrian territory. Iraqi forces will not be alone at the border. A French force is providing effective artillery support on this front. Popular crowed whose leaders have close ties to Iran , fears US forces could isolate its units close to the Syrian border from the main supply lines that link to eastern Anbar and northwest Nineveh. Military experts say the US military’s presence on a large military base, Ain al-Assad in al-Baghdadi area, west of Anbar, will allow it to uncover a wide range of land routes used by the popular crowd to reinforce its presence on the Iraqi-Syrian border. The popular mobilization has made great efforts to get its forces to border points, which will ensure its influence in the vital Syrian sphere, but American plans may harm this strategy.
Iraqi Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies