Author Topic: Iraq  (Read 362602 times)


Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 50351
    • View Profile
GPF: US troops still wanted
« Reply #1001 on: April 03, 2019, 09:40:19 AM »
The U.S. welcome in Iraq. Iraq’s parliamentary speaker said in an interview that U.S. forces are still needed in Iraq to combat the Islamic State’s remaining presence. It seems Iraq is being pulled in two directions: It still wants ties with the United States, and some 5,000 U.S. troops remain stationed there. But it also has a strong Iranian presence as Iran-backed politicians are winning seats in the government, Iranian trade (including electricity) is increasingly important to the Iraqi economy, and tens of thousands of Iran-backed militants operate in Iraq. The speaker’s comments show that Iraq still believes it needs U.S. support despite the growing Iranian influence in the country.


Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 50351
    • View Profile

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 50351
    • View Profile
Stratfor: Iraq: Protests threaten to upend the government
« Reply #1004 on: October 04, 2019, 08:37:12 PM »
Iraq: Metastasizing Protests Threaten to Upend the Government
4 MINS READOct 4, 2019 | 21:10 GMT
The Big Picture

Despite possessing some of the world's most sizable oil reserves, Iraq has struggled to stabilize its security or provide its citizens with sufficient access to goods, services and job opportunities. An ongoing swell of protest demonstrates the extent of Iraqis' exasperation with ongoing government inefficiency and how ill-equipped Iraq is to answer protesters' grievances in the near term.

What Happened

If protests in Iraq, fueled over the past week by long-standing grievances over corruption and economic need, continue to increase in intensity and scope, they could bring down the government. Substantial unrest in major Iraqi cities over the past three days has occurred largely in Shiite areas in the central and southern parts of the country. Although they were triggered by a handful of disparate political and economic issues, the demonstrations have since coalesced into a broad movement and taken a violent turn. Clashes between protesters, who have chanted anti-government and anti-Iran slogans, and security forces on Oct. 4 have left more than 40 people dead and hundreds more injured.

The resignation of the Abdul-Mahdi government could come sooner than later.

In an address delivered early Oct. 4, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi told Iraqis there were "no magic solutions" to solving their grievances and pleaded for more time to solve the country's endemic issues of corruption and unemployment. In an effort to assuage public anger, the prime minister has announced a new stipend program for poor families and the firing of 1,000 government employees accused of corruption, among other measures. But those promises have done little to calm the situation — something that isn't surprising given that Iraq's underlying problems endure despite similar assurances during previous bouts of unrest.

Elsewhere on Oct. 4, the influential Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani condemned the security response to the protests and urged the prime minister to establish an anti-corruption committee. Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr also issued a call for the government to resign, saying his Sairoon bloc in parliament would stop participating in legislative activities until the government introduces real reform, echoing his long-standing call for anti-corruption measures.

Why It Matters

Unrest driven by economic and political concerns isn’t new in Iraq. But the current outburst features several unique facets that indicate the risk they pose to the continuity of the current government. They differ from previous years' economically motivated demonstrations, primarily in terms of scale and scope. In addition, these protests do not appear to have a centralized leader, making them harder to control, whether by the Iraqi government or foreign actors. Even though there are signs that pro-protest social media hashtags may be originating from Saudi Arabia, given the diversity of Iraq's social and political spectrums, it's unlikely that any single external actor will be able to take advantage of the current unrest.

The protests come at a time of particular weakness in the Iraqi government. There is a wide divergence among its factions, especially the Shiite elite, over how to respond, especially since none of the near-term solutions under consideration will solve the long-term, endemic issues that have been festering for years.

What To Watch

    The resignation of the Abdul-Mahdi government could come sooner than later. Watch for a surge of unrest as the first anniversary of his Oct. 25 assumption of office approaches.

    The headquarters of U.S. and other foreign companies, especially in the oil and gas sector, could become targets, especially if pro-Iran factions in the country's political and security forces want to take advantage of the unrest. While this has not occurred during the current round of protests, foreign businesses have been attacked during previous episodes of unrest.

    A meeting on Oct. 5 in parliament with representatives of the protesters will provide an important indicator of the direction of the unrest. Watch for any tangible promises as part of an effort to placate their demands, including the resignation of specific government officials and offers of economic concessions.

    The mostly Shiite Popular Mobilization Units could play a key role in the eventual outcome. Given their grassroots origins, it’s unlikely that they'll be willing to put down protests. But their connections to Iran and their formal inclusion in the Iraqi security apparatus make it an open question as to how they will react moving forward.

    The Islamic State and other jihadist groups could take advantage of the current unrest, especially if Iraqi security forces are focused on dispelling serious unrest.

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 50351
    • View Profile
Stratfor: Iraq-- pressures building , , ,
« Reply #1005 on: October 11, 2019, 11:15:03 AM »
Why Baghdad's Attempts to Mollify Protests Are Falling on Deaf Ears
6 MINS READOct 11, 2019 | 14:15 GMT
This photo show burning tires in a Baghdad street during protests on Oct. 5.
(AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images)

Burning tires block roads in Baghdad during protests on Oct. 5, 2019. Issues including corruption, poor public services and unemployment have fomented public anger at the Iraqi government. Its options for responding will come at a cost.
Highlights

    Popular anger at lingering political and economic grievances is bound to keep resurfacing in Iraq so long as the economy continues to suffer from deep structural problems.
    Citizens, mistrustful after years of unfulfilled promises of more jobs and better services, are pushing their leaders to root out the corruption at the heart of Iraq's economic stagnation.
    Contrary to popular perceptions about Iraq, the unrest isn’t sectarian in nature, but focused instead on poor governance, corruption and a general lack of economic opportunity.

Deadly anti-government protests in Iraq have shed fresh light on the fragility of Iraq's post-2003 government and economy. Like episodes of significant unrest in 2011, 2015, 2016 and 2018, these protests include calls for improvements in social services, an increase in economic opportunities and an end to government corruption. But in terms of scale and scope, this spate of protests is unprecedented, perhaps portending the beginning of a moment of transition for Iraq’s government — not only for Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi's current administration, but also the broader system of governance as a whole.
The Big Picture

A deep and wide mistrust of government has made keeping the peace in Iraq more difficult. As Iraqis demand more tangible and complete solutions to their political and economic grievances, the state is faced with two broad choices over how to manage cyclical unrest — and both will mean disruptions for businesses in Iraq.
See Broken Contracts in the Middle East

In the long run, the promises of increased subsidies and jobs that the Iraqi government has used to calm previous economically fueled grievances are unsustainable. To preserve the current system in the face of repeatedly resurfacing political and economic gripes, the political class has two stark choices. It must either permit massive structural changes that will transform the economy into a stronger, more diverse and sustainable system, or it must stage the harshest crackdown since the U.S. intervention in 2003 to preserve the system as it is. Both options, naturally, will lead to profound business disruptions in the near term.
The Cycle of Economic Weakness Endures

One issue repeatedly drawing Iraqis onto the street is the country's structural economic weaknesses. Iraq's economy leans heavily on oil and natural gas extraction (energy exports constitute 99 percent of Iraqi exports and provide 84 percent of government revenue). But to keep producing at capacity, the energy sector sorely needs reform. Half of the government's budget goes to state pensions and public sector wages, plus handouts and subsidies that maintain social support. This has stifled diversification in the Iraqi economy, leading to an anemic private sector and a population overly dependent on public sector jobs that counts on the government to provide cheap and often unreliable services. A few reforms have taken place, but not enough to solve these structural problems. Donations from countries concerned about Iraqi stability, plus help from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, have helped paper over the fundamental issues but failed to bring about the needed changes.
This map shows the total number of protests in Iraq's provinces in 2018 and 2019.

The government's familiar tactic of offering piecemeal solutions ultimately worsens the problems at the heart of Iraq's structural economic inefficiency. Overspending on public wages and subsidies that the government deems necessary to ensure stability has inflated public debt and created a massive budget deficit. In part to appease demands for jobs, public sector employment tripled from 900,000 in 2004 to roughly 3 million today; the subsequent wage inflation took jobs spending from 7 percent of the overall budget in 2004 to more than 40 percent today. Even with public-sector hiring freezes, such as one implemented in 2016, that's an unsustainable growth rate that could lead to breakdowns in government spending. Nevertheless, the government is relying on those familiar promises to quell the current unrest, including offers to add even more public sector jobs, plus hand out cash transfers and housing support that would deepen the hole it has found itself in.

The familiar government promises do not satisfy Iraqis like they once did. With previous pledges to create jobs and improve services going unfulfilled, this round of promises, unsurprisingly, hasn't convinced all protesting Iraqis to get off the streets. This also means that its familiar pattern won't work in the future. In fact, broken promises of reform have become such a familiar refrain that they have provided a platform that nationalist leaders like Muqtada al-Sadr have used to win popular support.
Broken Trust Transcends Sectarian Lines

Also feeding the protests is Iraqis' perception of a broken political system that doesn't answer their demands for representation and solutions. Iraqis have gone to the polls for at least eight local and national elections since Saddam Hussein's ouster in 2003. But none of the leaders they have chosen have managed to turn the broken economy around or satisfy their needs. In fact, poverty levels and security woes have increased during that time. Mistrust in parts of the government system isn't new; previous instances of unrest also stemmed from Iraqis' demands for an end to corruption and the introduction of fresh faces into the government. What's new this time is the breadth of the frustration, which transcends Iraq's traditional sectarian politics. Public anger is not directed at any single sect, party or external patron. For example, the influence of powerful cleric Ali al-Sistani, whose voice once commanded considerable respect among all Iraqis, is reportedly weakening among a younger generation that has heard the same unfulfilled promises, year after year, from traditional sources of authority. This points to the likelihood that demands will emerge from Iraq's citizens that will become harder for the government to solve.

Iraqis are pushing their government to tackle tough political issues, like solving pervasive corruption, instead of just offering the same old solutions.

Although the protests transcend sectarian lines, their predominant participants — and many of the targets of their ire in government — are Shiite Muslims. This reflects the fact that Shiites constitute the largest share of the Iraqi population, a reality reflected in the structure of the post-2003 government system. One factor influencing the current protest movement is the deepening influence of Iran, a Shiite power, in Iraq. Anti-Iranian slogans that have become part of the ongoing protests point to a popular rejection of the growth of Iranian sway. This stems not so much from a specific rejection of Iranian influence as much as a desire to preserve Iraqi sovereignty, ultimately translating into a rejection of how the Iraqi government conducts its affairs and foreign policy.
The Risks to Iraqi Stability

Iraqis are pushing their government to tackle tough political issues, like solving pervasive corruption, instead of just offering the same old solutions. But a sincere and effective effort to diminish corruption in Iraq would require the state to engage in massive structural reform while unraveling some of the patronage networks that have formed within the political class around the energy sector. Not surprisingly, there is little enthusiasm among the political class to take this challenging and controversial route, which would create widespread disruptions and necessitate a reorganization of the energy sector over the long term. Nevertheless, the government has taken small steps in that direction. On Oct. 8, the Iraqi government froze the activities of provincial councils, followed by a government reshuffle announced two days later. The question in the near term remains whether that will be enough to assuage protests; it certainly won’t be enough to overhaul the entire system.

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 50351
    • View Profile
GPF: How Iran lost its hold over Iraqi Shiites
« Reply #1006 on: November 18, 2019, 03:46:52 AM »
November 18, 2019   Open as PDF



    How Iran Lost Its Hold Over Iraqi Shiites
By: Hilal Khashan

After the creation of the Iraqi state in 1921, Iraqi Shiites largely chose to eschew politics for decades, bogged down as they were in the bitter split in Islam that pitted them against the Sunnis. Iraqi Shiites have always been proud of their roots in Yemen and the Hejaz in the Arabian Peninsula, but they were never particularly drawn to Arab nationalism. They did, however, absorb pan-Arab nationalist influences following the 1958 military coup that toppled the Hashemite monarchy and, more importantly, after the radical Baathist coup that brought Saddam Hussein to power in 1968. The Baathist regime inundated Iraqi Shiites with pan-Arab political and cultural rhetoric that, during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, turned into anti-Persian propaganda.

Shiites overlooked Saddam’s oppression that culminated in the execution of prominent opposition cleric Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, who issued a religious edict banning membership in the Baath Party. They fought for Iraq against Iran, a Shiite-majority country. Shiites, who account for two-thirds of the population of Iraq, played a decisive role in winning the war, which ultimately led to a surge in Arab national identity and widespread animosity for a fellow Shiite country.
 
(click to enlarge)
Politicization of Sectarian Identity

The 1991 uprising in Basra that spread throughout southern Iraq was started by an Iraqi soldier who was humiliated by the defeat in the First Gulf War. The Republican Guard’s brutal crushing of the Shiite uprising caused Shiites to turn inward, shifting their focus from Iraqi nationalism to sectarian concerns. The fall of Saddam’s regime in 2003 ushered in a new political system based on sectarian accommodation that gave Shiites, who for 60 years stood outside the corridors of Iraqi power, overwhelming control over the state and its resources.

The Badr Brigade, established in Tehran in 1982, became the military wing of a Shiite political party known as the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The brigade, which took Iran’s side during the Iran-Iraq War, led the rebellion in 1991 and joined the U.S.-led coalition to overthrow Saddam’s regime in 2003. It took advantage of the vacuum left by the collapse of the government and ousted those who played a significant role in the war that led to Iran’s defeat in 1988. Poor post-war planning by the Americans allowed Iran to use the SCIRI and Iran-funded Shiite militias to overwhelm Iraq and penetrate its centers of power.

Despite the rapid spread of Iranian influence in Iraq, especially in the south, Iran’s promotion of an exclusivist and belligerent sectarian identity did not sit well with most Shiites, who see themselves as the descendants of major tribes that hailed from Arabia. Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the leader of the 2005-06 transitional government in Iraq, sought to supplant Iraqi Shiite Arab heritage with a narrow sectarian identity. His zeal for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s religious edicts alienated him among Shiites, who did not hide their distaste for religious revolutionism and influenced his political demise. Iran’s clerical establishment has always sought to dominate Iraqi Shiism and replace Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who does not subscribe to Khomeini’s rule of the jurisconsult, with a conformist spiritual leader. This policy backfired, despite Iran’s financial support of students in Najaf’s religious academies, making Iranian pilgrims generally unwelcome in the holy city.

Since 2003, almost 70 Iran-sponsored Shiite militias have emerged, most of which have been legitimized by the government in Baghdad. Iran has financially supported these groups, including the Popular Mobilization Forces, which have been active in fighting the Islamic State. Wahhabi raids on Shiite holy shrines in the early 20th century, and the Islamic State’s capture of a large swath of Iraqi territory, convinced only a minority of Shiites that Iran should be seen as a trusted ally. Distrust of Iran in Iraq runs deep and cuts across sectarian lines. Despite endless proclamations of solidarity with Iraq, Iran – which is still haunted by the memory of its defeat in the 1980-88 war – had been contributing to the country’s instability by providing it with arms and explosives. Shiites therefore understand that Iran wants Iraq to remain a weak and fragmented country.

An Identity Crisis

Suspicion of Iran is by no means surprising since Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis, who hail from the same tribes, are culturally and ethnically homogeneous. Most Shiites are former Bedouins who adopted Shiism in the 19th century after the development of Najaf into a provincial city and an economic hub in central Iraq. Iraqi Shiites are part of the national struggle between Arabs and Persians that dates back to the Muslim conquest of Persia and the fall of the Sasanian Empire in the seventh century. This deep-rooted conflict has been disguised as an ideological crusade since Khomeini’s Islamic revolution, but Shiites share the Sunni belief that Iranian influence is actually detrimental to Iraq. They argue that Iran sees Iraq as a base for its tug of war with the United States and a key part in its bid to establish itself as a supreme power in the Middle East.
 
(click to enlarge)

An example of Iraqi grievances against the Iranians is Tehran’s water management policies. After 2003, Iran accelerated the Shah’s policy of dam construction and diversion of the Tigris River’s principal tributaries such as the Lower Zab, Karun and Kerkhe that feed into the Shatt al-Arab river south of Baghdad. Iran dumps wastewater into the river, which is the primary source of water for Basra. Iraqis blame Iran for water shortages and salinity, as well as its deliberate destruction of their country’s fishing industry.

Torn between Baathist oppressive hegemony, rapacious pro-Iranian militias, and abandonment by wealthy Arab states in the Gulf, many Iraqi Shiites feel they have lost their sense of identity. They see themselves as a besieged population, portrayed as untrustworthy by Sunni Arabs and manipulated by the Iranians. Indeed, a large number of Iraqi Shiites want to resolve their identity crisis and appear to have settled for an Arab national identity. They appear to have lost hope that the post-Saddam regime will release them from the repression they have suffered and concluded that the time has come for the regime to go.

Over the past month, anti-government protests have erupted in several cities, including Basra and Bagdad. Angry demonstrators have burned the posters of Khomeini, who is revered as sacred by Iraqi Shiite political parties and militias, and set the Iranian consulate in Karbala ablaze. In Basra, they chanted: “Iran out, Basra is free.” In Nasiriyah, southeast of Baghdad, they burned the offices of pro-Iran parties, as well as the headquarters of the Badr Brigade.

The size and scope of the demonstrations that have spread throughout southern and central Iraq reveals the magnitude of the anger toward Iranian influence in Iraq – which has become synonymous with corruption, poverty and unemployment. The rise in youth unemployment and surge in poverty levels in oil-rich southern Iraq have fueled the protests. But it’s clear that the demonstrations, which the government has used excessive force to subdue, say more about the search for a true identity than they do about living standards. Demonstrators want to regain their dignity and free themselves from Iran’s grip. Most Iraqis, be they Sunni Arabs or Shiites, reject any suggestions of a cultural link to their Persian neighbors and see their connection to Iran as purely spiritual. (Imam Ali al-Rida, the eighth imam in Twelver Imami Shi’ism, died and was buried in Tus, in northeastern Iran.)

Iran Entrenched in Iraq

Iraqi Shiites turned to Iran reluctantly. Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror cut off Iraq’s contact with the outside world and its liberating tendencies. With the emergence of the information revolution, Iraqi Shiites after 2003 were energized and tried to break the sectarian shackles Iran had used to bind the two countries together. But having given sanctuary to Shiite dissidents in the 1980s, who became the rulers of the post-Baathist regime in Bagdad, Iran controls the power centers of the Iraqi political system and its armed forces. In this respect, Iraq doesn’t differ from other Arab countries. Despite the schism between the public and the despotic rulers, the latter continue to wield power at the top because they are willing to use excessive coercion to prevent real political change from taking place. Iraqi citizens of all denominations are emerging as a real political force, but this is a long and painful process, and one can only hope that it will grow to become impervious to sabotage. In the meantime, Iran seems well-positioned to maintain its hold over the centers of power in Iraq.   






ccp

  • Power User
  • ***
  • Posts: 10341
    • View Profile
Re: Iraq
« Reply #1009 on: December 31, 2019, 03:17:41 PM »
"Iranian Militia Leader Leading Iraq U.S. Embassy Raid Listed as Obama White House Guest"

so he has ties to the Deep State that is working furiously to  oust Pres. Trump.


G M

  • Power User
  • ***
  • Posts: 17673
    • View Profile
Re: Iraq
« Reply #1010 on: December 31, 2019, 05:55:03 PM »
"Iranian Militia Leader Leading Iraq U.S. Embassy Raid Listed as Obama White House Guest"

so he has ties to the Deep State that is working furiously to  oust Pres. Trump.

Good point!


Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 50351
    • View Profile
Stratfor: US Iraqi ties reach breaking point?
« Reply #1012 on: January 06, 2020, 03:37:19 PM »
Iraqi-U.S. Ties Reach a Breaking Point
8 MINS READ
Jan 6, 2020 | 23:03 GMT


An Iraqi demonstrator poses with the national flag as angry protesters blocked roads in the central city of Najaf on Jan. 5, 2020, to oppose the possibility that Iraq would become a battleground between the United States and Iran.
An Iraqi demonstrator poses with the national flag as angry protesters blocked roads in the central city of Najaf on Jan. 5, 2020, to oppose the possibility that Iraq would become a battleground between the United States and Iran. The killing of senior Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani has driven a wedge between Washington and Baghdad.

(HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP via Getty Images)
HIGHLIGHTS
The U.S. killed Qassem Soleimani in part to roll back Iranian influence in the Middle East. At least in Iraq, the decision is poised to do the opposite. ...

In death, senior Iranian military figure Qassem Soleimani may be getting closer to achieving one of his overarching aims: removing the U.S. military presence from Iraq. On Jan. 5, Iraq's parliament convened a special session in the wake of the U.S. airstrike that killed Soleimani and other Iraqi militia leaders to accelerate the government's expected request that the United States withdraw its forces from Iraq. In the nonbinding resolution, legislators demanded that the Iraqi government cancel its request for assistance from the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State, remove all foreign troops from Iraqi land and airspace, keep all weapons in government hands, investigate the U.S. airstrike that killed Soleimani, and lodge a complaint at the United Nations over Washington's alleged violation of Iraqi sovereignty. One day later, a draft letter from the U.S. Department of Defense and a statement from Secretary of Defense Mark Esper indicated that the United States could be already preparing to reposition its forces there.

The Big Picture

The issue of U.S. forces on Iraqi soil has been a lightning rod ever since U.S. and British forces ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003 and, more recently, since Washington deployed troops to assist Iraqi forces against the Islamic State in 2014. The Iraqi parliament's resolution to demand a withdrawal of American troops, and the U.S. response that it might already be repositioning its forces in the country, won't rupture U.S.-Iraqi ties, but it will lead to a significant readjustment.

The parliamentary resolution is just one facet among many suggesting that Iraqi authorities will ultimately ask the U.S. military to leave the country. Naturally, Iraq is weighing the pros and cons of continuing its security cooperation with the United States, but one outcome ultimately seems far more likely than the rest: namely, that Iraq pushes ahead with its request that the United States leave, or supports a U.S. decision to withdraw, resulting in an overhaul to their ties that downgrades their security cooperation.

Why Iraq Would Want the U.S. to Go

U.S. forces are currently in Iraq under a relatively informal agreement between the Iraqi and U.S. governments following Baghdad's 2014 request for military assistance and security cooperation to help defeat the Islamic State. Given that, the agreement between Baghdad and Washington is not a typical status of forces agreement but more like an invitation that Baghdad can rescind as it wishes.

One key reason that Baghdad would want the United States to go is that the original reason for the invitation — the threat of the Islamic State — has receded, given that the group has lost influence (as well as all its territory) over the last several years. The close coordination between the United States and Iraq in their fight against the jihadist group has also become a target for extremist recruitment.

At present, Iraq resents how the United States has dragged it into its campaign of maximum pressure against Iran. More than that, however, it fears that the American campaign has made it vulnerable to collateral damage from yet more proxy conflict between Iranian-allied forces and U.S. troops. In fact, the airstrike that killed Soleimani illustrated the threat of the United States' anti-Iran campaign so starkly that even the country's U.S.-allied politicians are voicing a more independent stance. The Jan. 5 session began with an unusual condemnation of U.S. actions by Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who voiced his anger over Washington's infringement of Iraqi sovereignty. (The acting prime minister, meanwhile, revealed on Jan. 5 that Soleimani traveled to Baghdad the night he was killed to deliver a message to Iraq regarding Saudi-Iranian mediation talks, underscoring how Iraq feels the United States might have manipulated it with the strike on Soleimani.)

A greater rift between the United States and Iraq won't automatically translate into greater closeness between Baghdad and Tehran. After all, many Iraqis of all walks of life resent the impudence of Iranian-allied militias.

Why Iraq Would Want the U.S. to Stay

The wave of Iraqi anger at the United States notwithstanding, there are many reasons why Baghdad would prefer Washington's continued involvement. For one, the strong pro-Iran camp in Iraq has been threatening to vote on the U.S. presence in the country since the last election in 2018, but the backlash over Soleimani's assassination has emboldened it — a development that could worry Baghdad as it tries to maintain a modicum of an independent foreign policy and rein in Iranian-allied militias that rarely heed the commands of the Iraqi government. Without question, that balance would be harder to maintain if the United States withdraws and loses some of its direct influence, ceding ground to Iranian-allied politicians and militia forces.

Ultimately, the Iraqi government is split over the issue, as many lawmakers want to maintain U.S. support. With just 172 out of the 329 total lawmakers present for the vote, the Jan. 5 resolution barely met quorum requirements, as practically no Kurdish and Arab Sunni lawmakers attended the session. Moving forward, further political fractures in Baghdad are a distinct possibility, particularly between the Kurds — the U.S. government’s closest allies in the Iraqi government — and the rest of the largely Arab government.

Given such considerations, a greater rift between the United States and Iraq won't automatically translate into greater closeness between Baghdad and Tehran. After all, many Iraqis of all walks of life resent the impudence of Iranian-allied militias, their tendency to operate outside the control of the Iraqi government and their violence toward civilians. But a rift would open a vacuum that other powers including Iran, naturally, but also external actors like Russia and China, would move to fill.

What Happens Next

These considerations notwithstanding, the Iraqi government is ultimately likely to move forward with a request for the United States to withdraw. Procedurally, the government can now use the Jan. 5 resolution to pressure the U.S. government or submit a bill to parliament articulating some of the motion's demands. Aside from the legally hazy issue of whether a caretaker prime minister has the authority to make such a decision, it is clear that it is only the executive branch, rather than parliament itself, that holds the power to oust the United States. What's more, the Federal Supreme Court would also need to rule on such a bill given that its contents affect Iraq's national security.

If Iraq does, indeed, show the United States the door, there will likely be a period of negotiation between the two governments over how the withdrawal will occur.

And then there's the question of the battle against the Islamic State — a common enemy to Washington, Iranian-backed militia forces and the Iraqi army alike. A U.S. withdrawal could help presage a resurgence of the group, which endures but is largely contained. The threat of Iranian-backed militia groups to the United States, in particular, is now so great that U.S. forces in the country announced a pause in the battle against the jihadist group to focus on defense against Tehran's proxies.

If Iraq does, indeed, show the United States the door, there will likely be a period of negotiation between the two governments over how the withdrawal will occur — rather than Washington attempting to stay against Baghdad's wishes. To many, that would put the United States in the role of an occupier, necessitating even more troops on the ground to protect the mission amid an almost-certain uptick in militia attacks on U.S. forces and installations.

At the same time, however, the United States, especially the White House, could respond to an Iraqi request for its withdrawal by adopting a punitive stance toward Baghdad by, for instance, taking a harder line on Iraq. In February, for example, Iraq is likely to apply for waivers from Washington to be able to continue importing the Iranian natural gas it needs to generate electricity. Such action, however, would only drive a bigger wedge between Washington and Baghdad, driving the latter further into the arms of Tehran over the long term, despite the economic barriers created through sanctions. U.S. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has floated the idea of imposing sanctions against Iraq, although it's unlikely the United States would do anything that would significantly reduce Iraqi oil production. After all, at 4.7 million barrels per day, Iraq's volume is simply too big for Saudi Arabia to offset — and a rising cost of crude could result in higher fuel prices in the United States, dragging down presidential approval ratings.

Before the airstrike that killed him, Soleimani and Iranian-backed militia leaders were polarizing figures, inspiring reverence and loathing in Iraqis in equal measure. But amid Baghdad's bid to walk a fine line between Washington and Tehran, the killing of the senior Iranian military figure could tilt the balance, putting the Islamic republic in the ascendancy in Iraq at the expense of the United States.

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 50351
    • View Profile

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 50351
    • View Profile

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 50351
    • View Profile
WSJ: The Baghdad vote is not the last word
« Reply #1015 on: January 12, 2020, 10:07:55 AM »
The U.S., Iraq and Iran
The Baghdad vote isn’t the last word on American troops.
By The Editorial Board
Jan. 5, 2020 5:37 pm ET


A handout photo made available by Iraqi prime minister office shows Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi (C, down) and Iraqi parliament speaker Mohamed al-Halbosi (C, up) attending an Iraqi parliament session in Baghdad, January 5. PHOTO: PRIME MINISTER OFFICE HANDOUT/SHUTTERSTOCK

The U.S. strikes in Iraq against Iranian-backed militias and Qasem Soleimani were necessary, but they always risked a nationalist backlash. The Iraqi Parliament’s symbolic vote Sunday to oust U.S. troops from the country is an example of that backlash, but it’s also far from the last word.

Trump Orders an Attack on Iran's Revolutionary General


The vote was not decisive, as only a little over half of Iraq’s 329 members of parliament were present to vote on the nonbinding resolution. Kataib Hezbollah, the militia allied with Iran’s Quds Force that stormed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad last week, issued threats against lawmakers who voted against the resolution.

Shiite lawmakers hold a majority and most voted in favor, while Kurdish and most Sunni members didn’t show up. Iraq’s minorities understand better than anyone the risk of Iranian domination, and both have supported a continuing American military presence.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi supported the vote, but he’s a caretaker who in November promised to resign after widespread protests sapped the legislature’s legitimacy. Elections for a new parliament are expected this year. The public already has registered its disgust with the Iraqi ruling class, and no doubt the U.S. and Iranian presence in the country will be major election issues.

The parliament also voted to file a complaint with the United Nations about the strike against Soleimani. Those suddenly concerned about international law apparently weren’t worried that Soleimani’s presence in Iraq was illegal under a 2007 United Nations Security Council resolution that was still in force. If the terrorist ringleader had adhered to that U.N. travel restriction, he’d still be alive.

The modest presence of 5,000 or so U.S. troops is in the interests of Iraq and America. Iraq could never have retaken Mosul and defeated Islamic State without U.S. air power, precision weapons, intelligence and training. Those assets are protection against the revival of ISIS or another Sunni jihadist insurgency. U.S. troops also give Iraqi patriots confidence to counter Shiite militias armed by Iran and resist Iran’s strategic goal of making Iraq its political and military subsidiary.

The U.S. can’t, and shouldn’t, remain in Iraq if American diplomats and soldiers are under siege. Iraq’s security forces failed to protect the U.S. Embassy last week, and they proved unable to stop Soleimani and the Shiite militias that fired rockets at U.S. troops 11 times in two months.

Deterring such attacks was the reason President Trump made the decision to attack the militias and target Soleimani. Allowing open season on U.S. forces wasn’t tenable, and something had to be done. If such American self-defense is too much for Iraqis to tolerate, then the pro-Iran militias would have been allowed to drive Americans out in any case.

By the way, Ben Rhodes, Susan Rice and other Obama Administration alumni are the least credible voices on the U.S. presence in Iraq. Barack Obama used Shiite Iraqi objections as an excuse to justify a complete U.S. withdrawal from the country in 2011. “The tide of war is receding,” he claimed as he ran for re-election in 2012. Team Obama wanted out of Iraq and barely tried to negotiate a new status-of-forces pact.

But Islamic State emerged and grew in America’s absence, and Mr. Obama had to send troops back to Iraq to avoid the strategic catastrophe of a jihadist caliphate in Baghdad. If U.S. troops are forced to leave again, it won’t be because Mr. Trump wants to appease Iran as the Obama Administration did.

Mr. Trump should make clear that the U.S. presence is to maintain a free and independent Iraq and support its sovereignty when threatened by ISIS and Iran-controlled militias. Most Iraqis know the U.S. played a decisive role in defeating Islamic State and have no interest in becoming Tehran’s colony.

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 50351
    • View Profile
Stratfor: Iraq faces American Economic Wrath
« Reply #1016 on: January 14, 2020, 05:23:45 PM »
Iraq Faces America's Economic Wrath
Matthew Bey
Matthew Bey
Senior Global Analyst, Stratfor
9 MINS READ
Jan 14, 2020 | 10:00 GMT

HIGHLIGHTS

Washington will tighten the enforcement of its existing sanctions on Iran and Iranian proxies in Iraq, meaning more companies, banks and individuals will fall afoul of U.S. measures.

The United States will probably expand its sanctions beyond just Iranian-backed militias in Iraq to target pro-Iran politicians directly.

The country could impose limited economic sanctions on Baghdad, but only in the event that it is forced to remove its troops from Iraq.

The United States is likely to tailor any economic sanctions so as to hurt Iraq's economic future rather than inflict immediate significant economic harm — the latter of which would only occur should American forces suffer significant casualties in the pullout.

For companies active in Iraq, threats to physical security — whether from a possible military conflict between the United States and Iran, militia violence or a resurgent Islamic State — aren't the only thing they need to worry about. That's because dark economic times could also be on the way, especially as U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to enact sanctions on Iraq if Baghdad continues to push for a withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq following the U.S. assassination of Qassem Soleimani. If Baghdad pushes U.S. forces out, the aftermath, bluntly speaking, will be messy. Given that bilateral diplomatic relations inevitably would take a nosedive in such a situation, the United States would most likely impose punishing sanctions on Iraq. And even if such measures don't come to pass, the United States' campaign of maximum pressure on Iran will certainly leave Iraq worse for wear as well.

Below are some of the actions — some more likely than others — that the United States could take against Iraq amid its larger battle with Iran.

The Big Picture

Tensions between the United States and Iran reached new heights at the start of the month following the United States' targeted killing of senior Iranian military official Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad. Amid an outcry in Iraq over Soleimani's killing, Washington is now threatening sanctions against Baghdad. But even if this does not occur, Iraq will bear a significant brunt of the fallout between the United States and Iran.

See Middle East and North Africa section of the 2020 Annual Forecast

Most Likely: Tighten Enforcement of Existing Sanctions

On Jan. 10, the United States announced new sanctions on Iran's metal, construction, mining and textile sectors; beyond this, though, there is little that Washington can target to ratchet up the economic pressure on Iran. Accordingly, the next wave of pressure is likely to focus on tightening the enforcement of existing sanctions on Iran — something that could place a lot more scrutiny on Iraq's significant economic connections to Iran. Regardless of whether circumstances push U.S. forces out of Iraq, more Iraqi companies and financial institutions that work with Iran are likely to become the target of U.S. sanctions, meaning they could lose access to the international financial system. Ultimately, the United States' intent is not so much to compel Iraq's companies and banks to take a harder line on Iran but to force Iraqi firms to sever their own ties with their eastern neighbor for their own economic and security interests.

So far, the United States has not enforced its sanctions on Iraq to the fullest extent over fears about the economic and political repercussions. Washington, however, could try to shape Baghdad's decisions by taking action on waivers that allow Iraq to continue buying Iranian electricity and natural gas for power generation. With the waivers set to end next month, the United States could threaten to end them or only renew them under specific conditions.

The next wave of U.S. pressure is likely to focus on tightening the enforcement of existing sanctions on Iran — something that could place a lot more scrutiny on Iraq's significant economic connections to the Islamic republic.

Very Likely: Widen Sanctions on Militias and Iranian-Linked Politicians

Over the past year, the United States has substantially increased its sanctions on Iranian-backed militias in Iraq. Most recently, it announced on Jan. 3 that it was implementing new sanctions on Asaib Ahl al-Haq leader Qais al-Khazali, although it is likely to extend such measures to other groups and their leaders. At the same time, the United States could legally designate more groups and entities as foreign terrorist organizations, further circumscribing their activity and creating more of a legal basis for drone strikes.

After that, the United States could consider sanctions on Iraqi political entities linked to Iran — a line of action that would become far more likely if U.S. troops are forced out of Iraq. Unsurprisingly, the targets would likely be those pushing for the United States' expulsion, including Hadi al-Amiri, the head of the Fatah political bloc, one of the largest in Iraq's parliament, and the Badr Organization militia. As it is, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused al-Amiri of being an Iranian proxy following his appearance at protests outside the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Dec. 31. A move against al-Amiri would be particularly incendiary, driving retaliation against the United States.

Possible: Limited Economic Sanctions

Economic sanctions on Iraq are possible, but likely only in the event that Iraq continues to push U.S. forces to leave. One of the first things that Washington could cut is financial support to Baghdad. The United States supports Iraq in a number of ways, providing foreign, security and other aid. Washington allocated $451 million in assistance for Iraq in the 2019 fiscal year and has so far earmarked $165.89 million in assistance for the 2020 fiscal year (although the final figure is likely to be far more under normal circumstances). Restricting the White House's actions, however, is Congress, which could pass legislation to limit Trump's aid cuts.

Another option is limited financial sanctions, in which the United States could emulate its measures against Russia by imposing restrictions on the Iraqi government or preventing Iraqi state-owned companies from raising debt. In this, Washington would not seek to starve the Iraqi government immediately but rather slowly impinge on its long-term economic security. Such a move would contrast sharply with the United States' current measures against Iran and Venezuela, which are designed to deal an immediate, significant blow.

Washington could also consider sectoral sanctions as part of a limited sanctions campaign against Iraq that targets the country's lifeline — oil and gas. Initially, the United States would likely only impose sanctions that limit U.S. companies and entities from participating in projects in Iraq. Again, this mirrors current sanctions on Russia, in which the United States has targeted Russia's Arctic, deep-water and shale production. Again, the United States would not seek to take Iraqi oil off the market quickly but rather impede its long-term expansion. Sanctions would likely focus on just U.S. companies, but given the U.S. importance to the global financial system and America's centrality to the global oil and gas industry, this would hamper all foreign companies looking to invest in Iraq's oil sector and its growth.

Washington could also consider sectoral sanctions as part of a limited sanctions campaign against Iraq that targets the country's lifeline — oil and gas.

Iraq, furthermore, is considering buying Russian military equipment amid fears that it will become the battleground between the United States and Iran as Russia has offered to sell S-400 surface-to-air missiles to the country. Doing so, however, could trigger U.S. measures under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), but Iraq is unlikely to make such a purchase until after the United States pulls out of Iraq, if it does.

Whether the United States extends sectoral sanctions to Kurdistan depends on the Kurds' support — or lack thereof — for Iraq's push against U.S. forces. Kurdish members of the Iraqi parliament, for instance, sharply opposed a Jan. 4 resolution that demanded the federal government withdraw its invitation to U.S. forces to remain in the country. It is possible that instead of blanket sanctions against all of Iraq, the United States could simply focus on entities that are linked to Baghdad. For example, the U.S. could place sanctions on new deals with Iraq's Oil Ministry and some state-owned oil companies, like the Basra Oil Co., while sparing the Kurdish Oil Ministry.

Unlikely: Significant Economic Sanctions

In responding to the resolution demanding U.S. troops leave, Trump specifically threatened to impose sanctions on Iraq that were even larger than those against Iran. Realistically, the United States would not go that far, but if the U.S.-Iraqi breakup creates a political mess amid frequent attacks on U.S. forces, the United States could view Iraq as essentially an Iranian client state — putting it on a par with Syria — meaning it could enact sanctions with the goal of immediately torpedoing the Iraqi economy.

Already, the United States has reportedly threatened to freeze Iraq's access to the Iraqi central bank's account with the New York Fed, having previously done so once in 2015. A move like that would affect Iraq's ability to trade in U.S. dollars and require it to become more creative in accepting payments for oil. Even so, the United States would likely only freeze access for an extended period of time in the event of a more significant breakdown in relations.

In addition, the Trump administration could impose direct sanctions on Iraq's central bank due to its transactions with the Iranian central bank and impose substantial secondary sanctions to reduce Iraq's oil exports. Still, at least at the outset, the United States would likely not cut the Iraqi central bank's access to the U.S. financial system as a result of its involvement in importing oil from Iran — as it has for the central lenders of other countries that have purchased Iranian oil. Instead, such U.S. sanctions would more likely echo the current sanctions against Venezuelan oil exports, which focus more on the companies themselves. After all, attempting to hit Iraq's oil exports would certainly reverberate across the global oil market, meaning the United States would carefully have to weigh the pros and cons before proceeding.

In the end, rather than knock Iraq's economy out for the count if U.S. troops are forced out of the country, the United States is likely to take a different tack by reviewing just how stringently it enforces existing sanctions on Iraqi companies, politicians and militias with ties to Iran. But even if U.S. soldiers get to stay in the country, Iraq — as well as the foreign firms that operate in it — have little chance of escaping the blowback from the wider U.S.-Iranian battle.

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 50351
    • View Profile
Stratfor: Iraq remains ripe for US-Iran Confrontation
« Reply #1017 on: February 04, 2020, 10:32:04 AM »
Why Iraq Remains Ripe for a U.S.-Iran Confrontation
Omar Lamrani
Omar Lamrani
Senior Military Analyst, Stratfor
Emily Hawthorne
Emily Hawthorne
Middle East and North Africa Analyst, Stratfor
6 MINS READ
Feb 4, 2020 | 10:30 GMT

Iraqis run for cover during an anti-government demonstration in Baghdad on Jan. 23, 2020. Protests have rocked Iraq since October but recently had abated amid spiraling tensions between the country's key allies, the United States and Iran.
Protesters run for cover on a highway in Baghdad during a Jan. 23 anti-government demonstration. Amid escalating political unrest, the Iraqi government will struggle to keep the country's armed militias from conducting an attack that pushes the United States and Iran toward war.

HIGHLIGHTS

Iraq is the most likely site for a U.S.-Iran confrontation in the coming months because of Iran's deep ties to several violent and capable Iraqi militias in close proximity to U.S. forces.

While the perception of a common U.S. threat will foster short-term cooperation between Iran-allied militias, Washington's assassination of a prominent Iraqi militia leader will ultimately increase competition between the country's rival armed forces.
This will make it all the harder for Baghdad to control militia-led violence, in addition to political violence being stoked by escalating anti-government protesters.

In Iraq, a mix of violent militias and volatile politics could provide the spark that sends Iran and the United States spiraling into an armed conflict — and with it, any remaining shreds of stability in Baghdad. In June, the United States declared that the killing of any U.S. military personnel and other American citizens in Iraq would warrant retaliation. Washington then proved its willingness to enforce that red line in a series of raids and strikes following a rocket attack that killed an American contractor in December.

In the aftermath of the Jan. 3 assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, it can be argued that a potential trigger for a full conflict between the two countries was narrowly avoided when an Iranian counterstrike with ballistic missiles didn't kill any U.S. troops in Iraq. But there is no guarantee that a follow-up round of clashes arising from another deadly attack wouldn't push the two countries back to the brink. And indeed — rife with militias, weapons and unrest — Iraq offers the perfect site for such a scenario to unfold in the months ahead.

The Big Picture

Following the uptick of U.S. tensions earlier this month, Iran is as motivated as ever to retaliate against Washington's maximum pressure campaign. And proxy attacks in Iraq are one of the most powerful methods that Iran has in its playbook in pursuing this objective. But as Iraqi militia groups seek to coordinate their strategies in the face of a common U.S. threat, the government in Baghdad will find it increasingly difficult to stabilize the country's security situation.

Setting the Scene

The fact that both Iran and the United States are prepared to use violent action against each other following the recent surge in tensions is further inflamed by the nature of the Iraqi theater itself. Iraq remains highly unstable and awash with weaponry, with the Iraqi government unable to exercise its will on the vast array of disparate militias operating in the country. Of the dozens of militias in Iraq that don't fall under direct state control, there are three broad factions: those closely allied with Iran, those closely allied with Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr and those under the leadership of the more mainline Shiite clerical authorities in the holy Shiite cities of Najaf and Karbala. All of these militias are all largely comprised of Shiite Iraqi fighters. Many also assisted and worked alongside Iraqi federal forces and, in some cases, even U.S.-led coalition forces to fight the Islamic State. And while none fall directly under the state's command and control, most Iraqi militias also fall under an umbrella organization, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), which has become a formal component of the Iraqi state's security forces.

While the Iran-allied militias logically fall the closest under Tehran's command and control, they remain independent actors. This distance provides Iran some plausible deniability about its culpability when an armed group attacks a U.S. or civilian target in Iraq. But the United States is increasingly willing to directly blame Iran even when a proxy group is the culprit of an attack, which could prompt retaliatory attacks from militias and spark a cycle of escalation. Already, U.S. forces in Iraq are increasingly targeting heavyweight Iranian proxies such as Kataeb Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq. Shortly after the assassination of Soleimani, Iran hosted a series of meetings with Iraqi militia leaders. And as this U.S.-Iran pressure intensifies, there will be more efforts between Tehran and its Iraqi proxies to coordinate retaliation against the United States.

But of the plethora of armed groups in Iraq, many are also already hostile to U.S. troops in the country without necessarily being loyal to Iran. This means that some Iraqi militia forces — regardless of whether they're closely allied with Tehran — have both the motivation and the means for further mortar, rocket or improvised explosive device attacks on nearby U.S. forces. So while it's often assumed that most of the militia attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq are somehow tied back to Iran (including the latest attack on the U.S. Embassy on Jan. 26), a strike that results in U.S. casualties could thus also conceivably originate from different armed factions on the ground, only to be misconstrued by Washington as an Iranian-led or -directed operation.

Enduring Iraqi Instability

The intensifying competition between various militia groups, as well as Baghdad's long-standing inability to exert command and control over any of them, further deepens the likelihood of greater overall instability in Iraq. In the same airstrike that killed Soleimani on Jan. 3, the United States also killed the prominent Iran-allied militia leader, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. A powerful consolidator, al-Muhandis was increasingly the center of gravity within the PMU umbrella organization. His absence will thus eventually open up space for even greater competition among Iraqi militias, further weakening what little control Baghdad had over the country's militias as they jockey for more power. This will increase the risk for violence, inhibiting cooperation between external actors such as the United States and Iraq's central government and federal security forces on counterterrorism operations.

In Iraq, a mix of violent militias and volatile politics could provide the spark that sends Iran and the United States spiraling into an armed conflict in the months ahead.

Compounding this chaos for Baghdad is also an emboldened anti-government, nationalist protest movement that has been demanding government reforms since October. There already have been violent crackdowns by federal security forces on protesters, who managed to prompt the resignation of former Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi in November. And the unrest is likely to intensify as different political factions in Iraq attempt to manipulate the movement, including the one led by al-Sadr.

Al-Sadr's recent decision to switch from supporting the protests to opposing the movement reflects his desire to maintain his political power, which over the years has grown in tandem with the central government's weakening authority. The move also appears to show some coordination between al-Sadr, Iran-allied militias and the federal government who otherwise have fundamentally opposing visions for Iraq's political future. Rather than a larger political alignment, however, al-Sadr's decision to reverse his position is more reflective of a shared desire among Iraq's political elites to avoid disrupting a status quo that has allowed them to flourish in Baghdad. But the appearance of a more coordinated front against the anti-government movement is likely only to inflame protesters' frustration with the powers that be in Iraq — raising the risk for even more unrest and, in turn, more destabilizing crackdowns in the near term.

Amid the recent surge of tensions between Washington and Tehran, there remains a fair chance that the red line of U.S. casualties will be crossed in the coming months. And with even less control over both its armed militia groups and angry citizens, there's little the Iraqi government will be able to do to keep a bloody proxy war from breaking out on its turf. Iraq — as an activated front between Iran and the United States — will, therefore, remain one of the likeliest flashpoints for another confrontation for the foreseeable future.

DougMacG

  • Power User
  • ***
  • Posts: 12243
    • View Profile
Re: Iraq
« Reply #1018 on: February 16, 2020, 07:56:02 AM »
"unconditional-surrender
Noun
A surrender without conditions, except for those provided by international law."
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
On 3 August 1990, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 660 condemning the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and demanding that Iraq unconditionally withdraw all forces deployed in Kuwait.
http://hrlibrary.umn.edu/peace/docs/scres660.html

3 March 1991—Iraq accepted the conditions of the UN resolutions.

Iraq soldiers were waving white underwear in the air in the desert.
http://media.gettyimages.com/photos/iraqi-soldiers-surrendering-to-the-allied-forces-thus-becoming-of-picture-id607457408?s=594x594
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Gulf War I - reversed the occupation of a sovereign country, the demand of the coalition.   We did not depose Saddam or rebuild the nation.

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 50351
    • View Profile

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 50351
    • View Profile
Stratfor: Iraq: US strategy could come back to bite
« Reply #1020 on: April 06, 2020, 02:59:34 PM »
The U.S. Strategy in Iraq Could Come Back to Bite
Emily Hawthorne
Emily Hawthorne
Middle East and North Africa Analyst, Stratfor
6 MINS READ
Apr 6, 2020 | 19:35 GMT

An image of cracked, painted picture of the U.S. and Iraqi flags illustrates the two countries' decaying relationship due to Washington's ongoing pressure campaign and proxy battle against Iran. 
An image shows the U.S. flag intersecting with the Iraqi flag. Against the backdrop of the low oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington’s emboldened push to rid Iraq of Iran's economic and military influence risks further damaging its already fragile relations with Baghdad.
)
HIGHLIGHTS

Iraq has become a hot theater for escalating U.S.-Iran tensions, with Iran-backed Iraqi militias attempting to force U.S. military forces out of the country via ongoing attacks. The United States has responded by repositioning its troops instead of withdrawing them, highlighting its continued priority of ensuring Iraqi stability. But against the...

The Big Picture

Iraq has become a hot theater for escalating tensions between Iran and the United States, with Iran-backed militias continuing to attack U.S. military forces stationed in the country. The United States has responded by repositioning its troops instead of withdrawing them, highlighting its continued priority of ensuring Iraqi stability. But against the backdrop of the global COVID-19 crisis, Washington’s intensified pressure campaign against Iran’s regional proxies and economic ties risk backfiring by throwing Iraq deeper into chaos.

See Iran's Arc of Influence

By tightening the screws on Iran’s regional proxies and energy sector, the United States risks damaging its remaining ties in the Iraqi government. Pentagon documents leaked in late March show an internal debate within the U.S. military over whether to escalate against Iran-backed Iraqi militias, which have recently ramped up their attacks on nearby U.S. and U.S.-allied targets in the country. Then, on March 26, the United States granted Iraq its shortest sanctions waiver yet for Baghdad to continue purchasing crucial Iranian natural gas exports without facing Washington’s financial wrath. These efforts are aimed at squelching Iran’s economic and military influence in Iraq, which the United States perceives as key to ensuring Iraqi stability under a U.S.-friendly government. Though doing so at a time when the economic blow of COVID-19 and low oil prices is threatening to already rip Iraq’s government apart at the seams could ultimately undermine this goal, and in turn, the U.S.-led fight against global terrorism.

Shifting U.S. Priorities in Iraq

The United States views containing Iraqi militias — especially those with the closest ties to Tehran, such as Kataib Hezbollah — as ultimately combatting Iran’s rivaling influence in the region. But degrading the influence of Kataib Hezbollah, or any other paramilitary organization in Iraq, is exceptionally challenging. Though their degree of public support varies across the country, these militias are deeply enmeshed in Iraqi politics and society, and have become a fundamental component of the Baghdad’s security forces and government over the years. This means that the government endures a political cost each time the United States attacks a militia group.

Despite U.S. pressure, there is also little the Iraqi government can do to more tightly control the actions of Iran-backed militias, which will continue to fight for their own survival and territorial goals beyond the direction of Tehran, let alone Baghdad. Attempts to rein in Iraq’s many powerful militia groups could also further complicate the ability of Adnan al-Zurfi, the country’s relatively U.S.-friendly prime minister-designate, to form a government by stoking pro-Iran parties to only further argue against his formal installation.

It is thus perhaps no surprise that the Iraqi government, which has been in a precarious position since the prime minister resigned in October 2019, has issued increasingly defensive statements in response to the United States directly bombing militia groups and continuing to threaten sanctions. Meanwhile, Washington is repositioning its military forces in the country with the long-term goal of an eventual drawdown, prompting mixed reactions in the Iraqi government. Those close to Iran celebrate it, while those closer to Washington fear the opportunities a lighter U.S. presence could provide the Islamic State and other terrorist groups.

Ill-timed Sanctions Pressure

The continued threat of U.S. sanctions, in particular, also risks further destabilizing Iraq’s already fragile economy, which is facing its own profound struggles due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the oil price downturn. For years, the United States has been pressuring Iraq to wean itself off of Iranian energy supplies. But Washington recently increased this pressure by shortening the latest sanctions waiver period to only 30 days before it supposedly begins sanctioning Iraq’s imports of Iranian natural gas. This is likely an effort to force Iraq to show that it has made good-faith progress on its stated goal of replacing all of its Iranian exports over the next three years, especially given that Iraqi consumption of Iranian gas imports actually increased from 24 percent to 31 percent between 2018 and 2019.

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington’s heightened push to rid Iraq of Iranian influence risks only throwing the country's economy and government deeper into chaos.

Significantly reducing this consumption, however, will require massive international investment, as well as increasing Iraq’s capture of flared gas to better economize and utilize its own domestic production. And now, the dual economic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic and the low oil prices spurred by the recent collapse of OPEC+ cooperation will make completing such an economic overhaul on such a short timeline all but impossible for Baghdad. Despite exporting roughly the same amount of oil, Iraq earned roughly $2 billion less in revenue on its oil shipments in March than it did in February, underscoring how shocks to global oil demand due to the COVID-19 crisis are further straining Iraqi’s financial reserves. With no immediate end in sight to the pandemic and the related economic impacts, the ongoing global health and economic crisis is threatening the Iraqi government’s very ability to keep its budget balanced and its essential government services running, let alone its ability to make deep structural changes to its energy and electricity sector.

Adding to the Chaos

Yet while the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to deal a sharp blow to Iraq’s economy, concerns about containing the country’s own outbreak are also offering Baghdad a temporary reprieve from the recent wave of heated anti-government protests. With more people staying home for fear of contracting and/or spreading the disease, far fewer Iraqis have taken to the streets in recent weeks to voice their grievances with Baghdad. But after the immediate health crisis begins to wane, and as Iraq’s typically severe water and electricity shortages once again emerge over the summer, the demonstrations are all but certain to return. And if the United States intensifies its bombing campaign against Kataib Hezbollah or other Iran-backed Iraqi militias, it could risk yet more protests in Iraq by fueling anger among Iraqis tired of being caught between the crossfire of the United States and Iran’s proxy battle.

Opting to ramp up the pressure at a time when Iraq is already grappling with such extreme economic and political risks could thus very well backfire on the United States by making Iraq not only a less receptive partner in the U.S. fight to contain Iranian influence, but an overall less compliant ally in the enduring global counterterrorism fight, of which Iraq remains an epicenter.