Something that was bound to happen has just happened. The US has realized the folly of air strikes against the positions of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Washington is now ready to deploy ground troops against ISIL in Iraq. Thus, the United States sinks deeper into the mire of the Middle Eastern conflicts by starting an armed intervention in Iraq once again.
We are all well aware how the first one, that started back in 2003, ended. Americans have suffered devastating losses in manpower and spent hundreds of billions of dollars and all they’ve managed to achieve was the destruction of the Iraqi state. Then they fled, leaving nothing but devastation and civil war behind. This gave rise to a surge of Islamic radicalism that they are trying to strangle.
According to the Vice President of the Saladin Provincial Council, Jassim Mohammed Hassan al-Attiyah, some 13,000 US soldiers and their military vehicles are to arrive at Speicher base in the city of Tikrit. He also said that dozens of American military advisers had already been stationed there and that they were cordinating and supervising the operations against militants of the Islamic State. These troops are going to join the efforts of liberating Saladin province.
After all, ISIL militants have nothing in common with Saddam Hussein’s soldiers armed with outdated weapons and starved by international sanctions. A total of one hundred thousand troops has matured during the wars in Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan, they are proficient in fighting against regular armies, no matter how many warplanes and armored vehicles they have. And over the years the militants have been fighting both in the wilderness, and in large cities like Aleppo, so they had enough time to master the ways of guerrilla warfare, sabotage and terrorist acts. Moreover in the camps in Turkey and Jordan they have been instructed by the best experts you can find, including CIA and Pentagon trainers, along with veterans of Saudi and Qatari special forces. They know all right how to fight against American troops.
In addition, there’s several thousand citizens of the EU and the United States in the ISIL ranks, most of them have served in the armies of their home countries, so they are well aware of all the possible weaknesses of the NATO troops. So what Washington needs to do is to send at least 60 thousand soldiers to Iraq in order to have a fighting chance against ISIL, given that the Iraqi army is of little help for them. Great Britain along with a number of other NATO allies has already announced that it’s not going to deploy soldiers in Iraq. What NATO can actually do is to send several hundred of Ukrainians, Poles, Georgians, Australians and Estonians. It is possible that the military forces of the GCC countries will bring something to the table, although they will need a permission of Baghdad or a resolution of the UN Security Council. One cannot discount the possibility that the United States can try to use their troops in Syria to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
But what could Obama have possibly done in this situation? Disgrace the state he leads by calling a retreat after a week of air strikes? This would have been an end of his political career and a heavy blow to the US authority throughout the world. In this situation, the US President even if it was against his will, was forced to embark on yet another military adventure. But one shouldn’t feel sorry for him — he has driven himself into a dead end by his unwillingness to cooperate in this fight with Russia, Iran and Syria. The blinders of American ideology have played a cruel joke with the US establishment. Now a Nobel Peace Prize laureate is starting a new aggression abroad!
Moreover, if Obama is going to send its troops into the Iraqi meat grinder, he should be aware of the fact that US troops will not be fighting ISIL militants alone, instead, they will face the majority of Iraq‘s population, whether Sunnis and Shiites, that has not forgotten the rude actions of the American army during the first occupation of their country. If the Americans are to land in Iraq, they will face a fierce opposition from all battle capable Iraqi forces. In particular, they can be engaged by the supporters of a popular Shiite imam Muqtada al-Sadr. Despite the fact that thousands of fighters loyal to him are fighting the Islamic State on the daily basis they may decide to oppose the Americans. Back in 2006-2009 Muqtada al-Sadr created a “Mahdi Army” that was successfully fighting American troops in Iraq, the latter suffered heavy losses due to their actions. And Iran, which supports Muqtada al-Sadr, is frustrated with the American military intervention in Iraq. After all, Washington de facto cuts Tehran from Baghdad in its struggle for Iraqi oil and gas, and American troops are going to appear near the borders of Iran. Needless to say the former Baathists and Saddam’s army officers are going in too.
There is another dangerous trend – the possibility of retaliation strikes against the US and a number of European countries that have joined the coalition, especially France and Great Britain, along with kidnapping and consequent murdering of their citizens in third countries. On September 25 Reuters reported, citing an official source in the Iraqi government, that local intelligence services are checking reports on the upcoming terrorist attacks in the Paris subway and in a number of cities across the United States. It’s been said that Iraqi officers have shared the information they had with their “partners”: CIA, DST, and MI6 . The main objective of the joint intelligence efforts was to find out how far the terrorists advanced in the preparation of their attacks, the source said. Earlier, on the eve of the regular session of the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi told journalists that Iraqi intelligence revealed that attacks were being prepared by the militants of the Islamic State. Then there was a leak from the US intelligence about plans of another terrorist group — Khorasan — that was preparing a number of serious terrorist attacks on the US soil that should remind US citiznes of September 11, 2001.
In this situation, given Obama’s hostile attitude towards Russia and the sanctions the US had imposed on Russia due to the situation in Ukraine, Russia’s best interest is not to interfere in the Washington’s adventurous intervention and specifically not to participate in joint military operations in Iraq. Let Washington get stuck in the Middle East. Then they will not have the strength or the resources to continue their confrontation with Russia over Ukraine and the gas supplies to Europe. Moscow should take advantage of this situation by restructuring its economy and by eliminating its oil and gas dependency.
Vladimir Simonov, Middle East expert, Ph.D. in History, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.