Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Trump US Here To Stay In Iraq

Trump basically said US "owns" base in Iraq in CBS interview (CBS)

Some of the major Iraqi parties are currently pushing bills that would require the U.S. military to leave Iraq. This is being champion by anti-American parties like the pro-Iran Fatah and Moqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon. They have been pumping out propaganda that the U.S. has helped the Islamic State and is expanding its presence throughout the country. Two recent incidents have seemingly helped their cause. One was a U.S. patrol that walked past a Hashd unit in Mosul, and the other was President Trump saying that the U.S. would be staying in Iraq for the long term.

President Trump gave an interview with Face the Nation over the weekend where he said that the U.S. would be staying in Iraq. He stated that the U.S. spent so much on a base it would keep it. The troops there would be used to watch Iran, which he said was a trouble maker in the region. This was widely seen as insulting by Iraqi politicians. It gave the impression that the U.S. could do whatever it wanted, which was an affront to Iraqi sovereignty. It also added fuel to the fire to those already opposed to the Americans.

Trump’s interview drew immediate responses from across the political spectrum in Iraq. Kataib Hezbollah that is funded by Iran said that Trump’s comments meant a new occupation of Iraq. The Fatah alliance let it be known that it would not allow Iraq to be used to target its neighbors. They have made similar statements for months as they want to push through a withdrawal bill in parliament. On the other hand President Barham Salah who is pro-western told Trump to mind his own business. The Anbar council also condemned Trump’s statements. That showed that the president’s thoughts were widely rejected by both those for and against the U.S.
US troops walking past Babylon Brigades in Mosul (Iraq Newspaper)

The president’s comments came a day after video and photos were published of an American unit walking through Mosul passing by a hostile Hashd al-Shaabi unit. The U.S. soldiers were reportedly marching past the Babylon Brigade, which is a Christian outfit close to pro-Iran groups Badr and Asaib Ahl al-Haq. This came after stories that thousands of U.S. troops had entered Ninewa from Syria as part of the withdrawal from there. Similarly there were accounts that the U.S. was moving in troops to the Mahawil district of Babil. These have all been officially denied, but the stories continue. A problem is that the Mahdi government has not been up front about how many troops the Americans have in Iraq or what they are doing because it knows the U.S. is unpopular with some segments of society and politics. That allows rumors to spread and actual situations like the one in Mosul to be blown out of proportion because the government is not being transparent.

Combined, these two events have increased the calls for the Americans to leave Iraq. A member of the parliamentary security committee demanded that the body call Prime Minister Mahdi to appear and explain the U.S. presence. The foreign relations committee issued a warning to the premier about the Americans. Finally, the head of Sadr’s movement told the Italian Ambassador to Iraq that the country no longer needed the Americans now that it is secure and stable. There are already two bills in parliament calling for a U.S. withdrawal as well. For now, these complaints and bills are mostly for propaganda purposes and to score political points. The problem is the U.S. appears to be completely oblivious to how it is being perceived in Iraq. If the Americans keep up with these actions it could lead to something much more serious.

SOURCES

Bas News, “[VIDEO]: Pro-Iran Militias Prevent US forces from Patrolling Mosul,” 2/2/19

BBC, “Iraq angered by Trump idea to watch Iran from US base,” 2/4/19

Al Forat, “Revealed the fact of the militarization of American forces in Mahawil,” 2/3/19

Iraq Newspaper, “Photos And Video Babylonian Christian Battalions Do Not Prevent US Troops From Roving In Mosul,” 2/1/19

Al Maalomah, “The Anbar Council rejects Trumps statements as “provocative” and a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty,” 2/4/19
- “Al-Fatah responds to Trump: We will not allow our territory to be used for espionage and targeting neighboring countries,” 2/3/19
- “Foreign Relations committee: we sent a formal warning to the government about suspicious American movements,” 2/2/19
- “Parliamentary Security Committee calls for a high level meeting headed by Abdul Mahdi to discuss the American presence,” 2/3/19

Al Mada, “The Sadrist movement: The strategic agreement with Washington lost its effect after Daaesh,” 1/29/19
- “A US tour in Mosul provokes the crowd and threatens an armed clash,” 2/3/19

Al Masalah, “Hezbollah Brigades: Trumps statement on the construction of American bases a new occupation,” 2/3/19

Sattar, Omar, “Varying head counts of US forces in Iraq stir controversy,” Al Monitor, 1/29/19

Suebsaeng, Asawin, “Trump: I’m Keeping Troops in Iraq So I Can ‘Watch Iran’,” Daily Beast, 2/3/19

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