President Trump caused his latest controversy in Iraq when he gave an saying that the U.S. would stay in Iraq to watch Iran. The was immediate as both pro-Iran and pro-American Iraqi officials and groups condemned the president’s statements. Back in the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) head General Joseph Votel pushed back against the president when he that the Pentagon’s mission remained defeating the Islamic State. Despite what the general said the United States is already monitoring Iran’s operations in Iraq.
Aby the inspector generals of the Pentagon and State Departments along with the United States Agency of International Development (USAID) revealed that the U.S. has been keeping tabs on Iran in Iraq. CENTCOM reported that Tehran provides humanitarian and military aid to groups it backs in Iraq. As a result, the U.S. diverted some of its intelligence and aerial capabilities to follow Iranian operatives within Iraq to figure out what they were doing. This has likely been going on for years. During the U.S. occupation for example the Americans conducted raids on suspected sites being used by Iranians and arrested dozens of them, interrogated them, and then released them. (1) At the time, Tehran was supplying money and weapons to various militias that were attacking the U.S. These groups are still around and many of them are now part of the Hashd al-Shaabi, and still being backed by Iran. The surveillance doesn’t sit well with many Iraqis, especially with those aligned with Tehran, because it appears that the U.S. is doing what it wants without taking account for Iraq’s sovereignty. It’s only natural however that the U.S. should be tracking what Iran is doing in Iraq because its allies are threatening to expel the Americans by force if necessary. The Trump administration’s Middle East policy is also largely based upon countering Tehran.
1. Linzer, Dafna, “Troops Authorized to Kill Iranian Operatives in Iraq,” Washington Post,
Detsch, Jack, “Pentagon walks back Trump idea of using Iraq base to counter Iran,” Al Monitor, 2/5/19
Inspector Generals, “Operation Inherent Resolve And Other Overseas Contingency Operations, Lead Inspector General Report To The United States Congress, October 1, 2018-Decemer, 31, 2018,” February 2019
Linzer, Dafna, “Troops Authorized to Kill Iranian Operatives in Iraq,” Washington Post,
Suebsaeng, Asawin, “Trump: I’m Keeping Troops in Iraq So I Can ‘Watch Iran’,” Daily Beast, 2/3/19