by Yusuf Dhia-Allah (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 50, No. 7, Muharram, 1443)
Iraqi leaders of different political factions are demanding the removal of all US troops from the country. They see the continued presence of foreign troops led by the US as an infringement of Iraqi sovereignty and a threat to its security.
Some 2,500 US troops are in Iraq under the pretext of fighting Daesh (ISIS) terrorists. Most Iraqis dismiss this claim as utterly false and merely as an excuse for continued US military presence which they view as an occupation.
Sayyed Ammar Hakim, head of the National Wisdom Movement (Hikmah) renewed the call on August 13 for the removal of all foreign troops, especially Americans, from Iraq. “Time is ripe for us to become a country with complete sovereignty, where there are no foreign forces, most importantly the American military personnel,” Sayyed Hakim said. He also stressed that accusations against resistance groups, including the anti-terror Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) or Hashd al-Sha’abi must end. He called them an important component of resistance against Daesh terrorists as well as foreign occupation forces.
Other groups have been equally forceful in demanding the completed withdrawal of US forces from the country. Nasr al-Shammari, spokesman for Iraq’s al-Nujaba resistance movement, in an interview with the Lebanese al-Mayadeen news network called for complete pullout of American forces from the country. In his interview on the night of July 26, al-Shammari said any agreement with the US must also include the withdrawal of its “criminal” air force. “We have no confidence whatsoever in Americans, and do not agree to their presence under any circumstances. We fiercely oppose the US military presence, and demand a complete pullout of American forces,” he said.
He was referring to the agreement the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi signed with the US following his meeting with US President Joe Biden in Washington DC on July 26. The Nujaba official pointed out that the US air force controls Iraq’s airspace and has been behind many of the American military’s crimes in the country.
“The US military’s crimes in Iraq, especially the assassination of military commanders Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani [of Iran] and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, were carried out by its air force,” al-Shammari said.
Among other prominent Iraqi political figures, Muqtada al-Sadr while praising the agreement to end US combat mission in Iraq, said, “We are waiting for a complete withdrawal of American troops.” He added, “We have already announced our conditions, and the military operations of resistance forces will stop completely once they are met. We must work to support Iraqi armed forces, including the army and law enforcement, so they can secure Iraqi territories and protect the country against terrorism, violence and proxies.”
Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada spokesman Kadhim al-Fartousi was equally scathing in his criticism of US military presence and the prime minister’s deal with the US to extend the military occupation under a different label.
In an interview with Al Mayadeen, he said “the negotiations between the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi and his accompanying delegation with the US administration are aimed at legitimizing the US presence in Iraq.” Al-Fartousi called the Biden-Kadhimi agreement “a grave mistake when it undertook the role of a mediator between the Resistance and the US.” He said “the Iraqi government recognized the presence of US combat troops in Iraq,” by signing the agreement.
Anti-US sentiment has been growing in Iraq since the eruption of Daesh terrorists in July 2014 and the US military failure to confront them. The terrorist outfit took control of nearly one-third of Iraqi territory. Using the pretext of fighting them, the US stationed thousands of troops in Iraq. Most informed observers, however, believe that the Daesh terrorist outfit is a US creation. It is financed and protected by the US for its own nefarious agenda.
Daesh terrorists were defeated not by American troops but by resistance groups such as the PMU that emerged in Iraq with the help of Islamic Iran. Two commanders in particular—the legendary General Qassem Solaimani of the Quds Force, and his fellow struggler Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of the PMU—were responsible for defeating Daesh. For this, they were assassinated by the US on January 3, 2020 at Baghdad airport. The drone strike was authorized by former US president Donald Trump. It was a war crime for which Trump will be held accountable.
Two days after the attack, Iraqi lawmakers approved a bill that demanded the government to end the presence of all foreign military forces led by the US. Since then, political pressure has grown.
Aware that he would not be able to withstand the pressure from various political groups, Iraqi prime minister visited Washington DC and met US President Joe Biden on July 26. He signed a new agreement whereby the US would end its “combat mission” but troops would remain in an “advisory capacity” to “train” Iraqi forces. This is what Iraqi political forces find unacceptable. They see the “new arrangement” as merely changing labels without altering the ground reality of US military occupation.
Their concerns were confirmed by what the US Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller told Kurdish journalists. He said Washington was committed to Iraq “for the long haul.” Asked about a possible US pullout from Iraq like the one in Afghanistan, he replied, “I think clearly that is not on the mind of President Biden.” He went on to say that the president “understands the importance of Iraq, the importance of the US to Iraq, the importance of Iraq in the region.” In other words, there will be no pullout regardless of what the Iraqi prime minister says for domestic consumption.
The New York Times in a report on July 24 drew a similar conclusion. It pointed out that the Pentagon had no intention of pulling any of the 2,500 US troops from Iraq. Its aim is to simply rename on paper the combat role given to the soldiers to “logistics specialists, advisers, trainers” and the like.
As al-Shammari asked: “Who can guarantee that American forces in Iraq will not be reinforced under the title of advisors?” There appears to be a real disconnect between the will of the people as reflected by various political leaders and the government in Baghdad. Al-Kadhimi and his henchmen seem to be placing too much faith in the Americans. Perhaps they should reflect on the plight of the US-installed puppets in Afghanistan and make amends.