Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Iraq and U.S. Struggling With American Military Withdrawal

Def Sec Esper (left) and Joint Chiefs head Gen Milley (right) denied that the US was withdrawing from Iraq (Getty Images0

Iraq and the United States took another move towards separation. After the Iraqi parliament voted on a resolution demanding that foreign forces leave the country Washington and Baghdad took steps to make that happen with some obfuscation and threats thrown in for good measure. 

In Baghdad, the government moved to fulfill the parliamentary resolution for foreign forces to leave the country. Premier Adil Abdul Mahdi said a legal document was being drawn up to implement the decision, and he met with the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller to discuss the matter. Various Iraqi parties had been talking about the U.S. military leaving the country for months before hand. The killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force Commander General Qasim Suleimani and deputy head of the Hashd Commission Abu Muhandis galvanized those forces. They are only thinking in the short term however. The last time the U.S. military left it opened the door for the revival of the insurgency. The manner in which Iraq is moving is also scaring other western countries and international companies. Instability is always bad and that’s what Baghdad is creating.

The United States went back and forth on the issue. First, Trump threatened Iraq with sanctions if the Americans were forced out, and said that the U.S. was not going anywhere until Iraq paid for a military base that the U.S. developed. President Barham Salah even received a paper outlining what the sanctions could entail. Then a memo was published from the Marines to the Iraqi Joint Operations Command that said they would begin withdrawal actions in the coming weeks following the request of parliament. Back in Washington, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley rushed to the podium to say that the U.S. was not leaving, that the memo was simply a draft that should have never been released, but then commented that some forces would be moving to Kuwait. Many Iraqi elites were already mad at the United States for its strike on Suleimani and Muhandis. Its allies were largely silenced by the act. Trump’s talk of sanctions only made the situation worse provoking more attacks by Iraqi politicians upon the U.S. Then the U.S. military was exposed contradicting the president, and had to do damage control. The Marine memo showed that the Americans are preparing for what everyone expects to eventually happen. Even in the Esper-Milley press conference, it was noted that some U.S. forces would be leaving for Kuwait. While the U.S. presence in Iraq was winding down already, it looks like the military is scrambling to cope with the new conditions. They have to deal with the Iraqi demands, and the president who Tweets without any sense of strategy. The memo and the press conference showed how chaotic things are going.


Baldor, Lolita and Burns, Robert, “US Defense Secretary Esper says no decision to leave Iraq,” Associated Press, 1/6/20

BBC, “Trump threatens Iraq with sanctions if US troops are expelled,” 1/6/20

Dri, Karwan Faidhi, “Coalition forces limit anti-ISIS operations, suspend training Iraq forces,” Rudaw, 1/4/20

Hjelmgaard, Kim, “Iraq votes to expel U.S. troops after Iran Ge. Qasem Soleimani’s killing,” USA Today, 1/5/20

Al Mada, “The government announces direct steps to remove foreign forces amid doubts about its law,” 1/6/20
- “The President of the Republic receives a copy of the proposed sanctions on Iraq,” 1/6/20

Al Sumaria, “In a document, the Marines address the joint operations regarding its safe withdrawal from Iraq,” 1/6/20

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