The air strikes inflicted by the US Air Force on February 25 in the Syrian regions bordering Iraq, and the consequences these actions taken by President Joe Biden will have, are raising many questions in many countries across the world.
John Kirby, who is the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, at a briefing for journalists on February 26 pointed out in particular that “Iraqi and Kurdish partners of the United States assisted in collecting the necessary information for an air strike on the infrastructure of pro-Iranian groups in Syria.”
Acting along the age-old principle of “divide and conquer”, by stating the alleged cooperation between the Iraqi special services and the Kurds in the preparing for this categorically aggressive act on the territory of the sovereign state of Syria, the Biden administration undoubtedly intended to whip up strife between Tehran and Baghdad, with Erbil to help facilitate its aggressive policy in the region. However, Iraq immediately labeled this statement by John Kirby fake, officially highlighting the fact that Baghdad did not transmit any intelligence to Washington that was then allegedly relied upon by the United States to launch airstrikes across Syria. “The Iraqi Defense Ministry expresses its surprise at the statements made by the US Secretary of Defense about receiving intelligence from Iraq before the strike was made on targets in Syrian territory. We deny this,” the Iraqi military department stated. At the same time, they clarified that cooperation between Baghdad and the international coalition fits solely into the boundaries of “fighting against the terrorism that threatens Iraq in a form that allows maintaining the country’s sovereignty and security.” In addition, Iraq said that an investigation has already begun into this matter.
Against the backdrop of US statements and its airstrike on the pro-Iranian group in Syria, on February 27 Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs Fuad Hussein flew to Tehran to try to urgently resolve the issues that had cropped up, and held a meeting with the Secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani. “The brutal US strikes in Syria were part of an effort to resuscitate organized terrorism. Iran and other countries combating extremism will prevent Islamists affiliated with terrorism from re-emerging in the region,” stated Ali Shamkhani. The secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council reminded his Iraqi counterpart about the law on expelling foreign armed forces from the country that was adopted by the Iraqi parliament. Shamkhani proclaimed that any delay in putting this law into place would lead to a further escalation of tensions in the region.
During the meeting, the ministers also discussed NATO’s intention to increase the NATO troop force in Iraq from 500 to 4,000 service personnel. The reason for this discussion was the statement on this issue made on February 18 by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who indicated that the increase in troops would take place “after an official invitation from Baghdad”, and that all the details in this decision had been agreed upon with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. The increase in NATO troops undoubtedly worries Tehran, since the US airstrike on Iranian militias on February 25 may indicate that the real goal of increasing the number of troops that the alliance has is not really the fight against terrorism previously declared by Washington, but against pro-Iranian proxies that are at the forefront of the fight with the underground terrorist group DAESH (this group is prohibited in the Russian Federation).
Washington’s own critical position regarding the pro-Iranian militias was also clearly expressed in a letter sent by US President Joe Biden to Congress, where he stated that the US Air Force strike on Syria “was necessary to prevent attacks planned by pro-Iranian groups on the American military and international coalition forces in Iraq.”
In the context of the discontent that has already been voiced by the Iraqi authorities with attempts to attribute alleged complicity in preparing for the US airstrike on February 25 to the Iraqi intelligence services, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs John Kirby was forced to make a new statement on February 27 – one where he indicated that Washington, as it turns out, did not use Iraqi information when developing the targets for the US Air Force strikes in Syria. By doing so, the United States actually admitted the failure of its reckless schemes to try to involve the Iraqi intelligence services and Kurds in the aggression committed on February 25 on Syrian territory.
In addition, realizing that its overtly aggressive step taken by the US Air Force on February 25 could significantly worsen the security situation for American citizens and, above all, for US military personnel in the region, the international coalition led by Washington has already increased the level of threat for American troops in Iraq, bringing them up to battle alert. This was reported by Fox News, which clarified that the necessary measures to improve security only concern Balad Air Base so far. According to Fox News, this state of affairs could last for several days, and be used as a precautionary measure, depending on the current situation on the ground. The increased security at Balad Air Base, which hosts US coalition forces, is also due to the fact that a week earlier it was subjected to a missile attack carried out by those whom the United States accused of being “militants with links to Iran.”
Meanwhile, Syria has once again officially demanded that the UN stop US aggression. “The ministry has called upon the Security Council again to take responsibility for maintaining peace and security, and to take immediate measures to prevent its permanent member (the United States) from continuing its aggression and crimes against a sovereign state,” the Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The letter sent to the UN Secretary General and the President of the UN Security Council states that the US airstrikes on Syrian territory are “blatant aggression, and another episode in a series of repeated attacks by American troops under contrived pretexts.”
Vladimir Platov, an expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.