Monday, January 28, 2019

Iraqi Parties Make Push For US Withdrawal As America’s Presence Increases

(Shafaaq News)
Various Shiite parties are pushing for legislation that would require the United States military to withdraw from Iraq. This comes as the Americans are increasing their presence, and after a controversial visit by President Donald Trump. While the moves in parliament are largely symbolic for now they could become more serious due to increasing rumors and propaganda.

At the end of 2018 some Shiite blocs began demanding America draw down its forces. For example, Asaib Ahl Al-Haq leader Qais Khazali who is a member of the Fatah list said that parliament would expel the U.S. or Hashd groups would force them out. This came after President Donald Trump visited U.S. troops in Anbar without meeting any Iraqi leaders, which led to widespread criticism such as Qazali’s. In January 2019, at least two different bills were submitted calling for a timetable for U.S. troops to leave, the latest by Moqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon party. This push is not just coming from pro-Iran factions like Khazali’s but Sadr’s group as well. Legislation can only originate with the cabinet not parliament so the two bills cannot become law. That means these moves are only symbolic and aimed at gaining political points for now. They do represent the long time goals of these anti-American groups.

This issue could become more serious due to innuendo, an ongoing information campaign, and the U.S.’s own actions. Since the start of the war against the Islamic State in 2014 Hashd groups linked with Iran claimed that Washington was supporting the militants. Those stories continue to this day. There are also rumors that usually start on social media and often get in the Iraqi press that the U.S. is deploying its forces in various parts of the country. For instance, there was a story in mid-January 2019 that Americans were in northern Baghdad’s Adhamiya district, which the Baghdad Operations Command had to deny. At the same time the U.S. is expanding its bases along the Syrian border. In December a new base was opened in the Qaim district in Anbar, the sixth in the province. Additionally, in January video was posted on social media of a U.S. convoy rolling through Fallujah. These on top of the Trump visit all make it seem like the Americans are violating Iraqi sovereignty by doing whatever they want. Because the Mahdi government wants the Americans to stay, but knows there is part of the political class and population that is anti-U.S. it is not very transparent about what the U.S. is doing. That just adds to the problems because it allows the rumors and propaganda to continue.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “In Iraq, political wrangling spawns debate over US troops,” 1/22/19

Al Alam, “Iraq: US plan to control the deserts of three provinces,” 12/17/18

Bas News, “Iraqi Shi’ite Militia Leader Threatens to Expel US Troops; By Law or By Force,” 12/27/18
- “Sadr’s Bloc Joins Efforts to Oust Foreign Forces from Iraq,” 1/26/19
- “[VIDEO]: Large US Convoy Spotted in Fallujah,” 1/26/19

Al Mada, “An American force is stationed in west Iraq at base after a hasty takeover of a Syrian area,” 12/10/18

NINA, “Baghdad Operations Command Denies News On Deployment Of US Troops In Adhamiya,” 1/25/19

Sonne, Paul and El-Ghobashy, Tamer, “U.S. forces will stay in Iraq and could reenter Syria from there, Trump says,” Washington Post, 12/28/18

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