Recently, the United States has been actively redistributing its financial and military power from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific region, refocusing all its forces against China. Washington sees that country as its main competitor and rival in its future struggle to ensure unrestricted global leadership. For this reason, and against the backdrop of increased protest by Middle Easterners against the presence of American troops, Washington was forced to withdraw entirely from Afghanistan at the end of August. The US’s next station is Iraq, where the Afghan fiasco has already overtaken the US Syria will be next.
Washington announced the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq after US President Joe Biden met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on July 26, 2021. By December 31, Washington has promised to wind down all combat operations in that country, drawing a line under nearly 20 years of US armed intervention there, as in Afghanistan. But at the same time, Washington said military cooperation would not end in Iraq. However, Baghdad had previously reiterated that the country does not need a foreign presence.
In this context, let’s recollect that American military bases are maintained in the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf. The US Navy and other NATO navies, along with aircraft carriers, are constantly patrolling the waters of the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf. So the territory of Iraq remains under reliable American supervision, even after the planned withdrawal of two thousand five hundred US combat troops. In addition, some of them are likely to remain after the withdrawal to advise and train local soldiers and officers and participate in the exchange of intelligence. Washington also intends to continue supporting Kurdish militias that have played a prominent role in fighting extremists in the region. Washington stresses all of this is “designed to enhance Iraqi combat capabilities.” US Marines guarding US foreign missions may also remain in the country together with a significant number of mercenaries from US private military bodies. However, the State Department stressed that the bases used in Iraq by the US and coalition contingent are Iraqi; they are not the US or coalition bases. The international contingent is present only to support the Iraqi government in fighting terrorists.
President Biden and Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi reiterated this decision to withdraw American troops from Iraq when they met in Washington on August 23.
During the visit of Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein to Moscow in late August, the Iraqi official reiterated his country’s readiness to withdraw US troops. He stressed that Iraq now has all the necessary forces and means to fight terrorism on its territory. The minister stressed that the Iraqi security services now have sufficient information about radical Islamists and the necessary skills to combat them effectively. All this allows us to hope that the Afghan version will not happen after the departure of the US military from Iraq.
The withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq has already begun in the first half of August 2021. Although the troops of the United States and its coalition allies are expected to be replaced by UN peacekeepers to provide security on the territory of Iraq, dormant cells of DAESH (a terrorist entity banned in Russia), supported by some segments of the local population, have noticeably been active on Iraqi territory already at the stage of negotiations on the withdrawal of the US contingent from the country. So far, the militants have relied on small-group terrorist attacks and sabotage. Still, some local experts say it’s possible that once foreign troops leave, extremist leaders will reassemble small militant groups into full-fledged units. Therefore, in recent days, attacks on military and humanitarian convoys and the country’s economic infrastructure have been frequent in Iraq. In August alone, terrorists destroyed several facilities of the electrical infrastructure of the State, attacked its vital components, and blew up power pylons, de-energizing large areas in and around Baghdad and several provinces of the country. Failure to cope with regular power system breakdowns caused by sabotage and equipment deterioration and growing protest sentiments forced the resignation of Iraqi Electricity Minister Majid Mahdi Hantoush in June 2021. The lack of power not only prevents the normal functioning of the country’s social facilities but also causes increased citizen discontent, making it easier for militants to find accomplices in their midst.
The withdrawal of UStroops from Iraq has recently become one of the most discussed topics after the Afghan issue. One of the reasons that inclined President Biden to end this campaign certainly may have been the death of his eldest son, Beau, who served in Iraq at the rank of major. Doctors believe his fatal illness was triggered by exposure to toxins that entered the atmosphere when officers burned military waste.
However, the US-Iraqi story did not begin in 2003 but earlier, being basically the story of a battle for oil. After World War I, Iraq, which had been part of the defeated Ottoman Empire, was occupied by Britain. All oil wealth of the country was divided between England, France, and the USA. But many years later, in 1968, after the coup d’etat in Baghdad, Saddam Hussein came to power and soon nationalized all the oil, which provoked the armed intervention of the USA and the West against this country.
However, nowadays even the political elite in the US are convinced: Iraq was a mistake. Washington’s show at the UN stage with Colin Powell’s model vial of anthrax, when, a few years after the invasion, the US admitted that no biological weapons had been found in Iraq, cost the world and the US itself enormous cataclysms and casualties. A trillion dollars has been spent on this war, with an enormous loss of life and unjustifiable sacrifice. Among them, 8,000 American soldiers, more than 50,000 Iraqi police officers, and almost 200,000 civilians. The total loss is almost a third of a million, and that’s the population of an entire city.
The perpetrators of these damages must therefore be held accountable before the law, as well as making the necessary contribution as reparations for the reconstruction of Iraq. This includes the return of wealth and national treasure stolen from that country. Therefore, the attempts of the Iraqi authorities to return the $200 billion smuggled abroad, including the assets of former President Saddam Hussein, to the country are not surprising. According to SHAFAQ News, Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Finance Ali Allawi announced this on August 26 during a government meeting. According to him, “$150 billion to $200 billion was smuggled out of Iraq back in the day, of which only 5% was former regime money.” According to the minister, the Central Bank of Lebanon had earlier informed Baghdad about the “disappearance without a trace” of $20 billion transferred from Iraq back in the day. Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, the Finance Minister made it clear that these funds could seriously help improve the country’s financial situation and could be used, in particular, to cover the budget deficit and carry out economic reforms.
Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.