“Dropped into a geopolitical struggle”: US-Iraq tug of war in Iraq | Conflict News
Iraq is increasingly becoming a battleground in the conflict between the United States and Iran, and the deadly air strikes against pro-Iranian militias are just the latest example.
Analysts said that although the Iraqi government condemned the airstrikes, it is unlikely that the two sides will change course because the presence of both parties is critical to their foreign policy goals.
This The U.S. Air Force carried out an attack last week Regarding the facilities of the pro-Iranian militia in the Syrian-Iran border area. From there, militiamen launched drone attacks on American targets across Iraq.
Stephen Zunes, a professor of political science at the University of San Francisco, told Al Jazeera that after Donald Trump’s previous administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement, the confrontation between the United States and Iran’s alliances in Iraq has intensified. Comprehensive agreement.
Zunes said: “Since the 1980s, there has been a low-level conflict between the United States and Iran, but since the United States re-imposed sanctions on Iran in 2018, although Iran has complied with the joint comprehensive action plan, the conflict has intensified.”
Zunes said Iran may now hope to charge the United States for a substitute price by increasing attacks on Washington’s decision to effectively undermine the seven-nation agreement while causing such severe economic damage to the country.
The targets of the US air strikes have been used by some armed groups, including the main Iraqi militia organization Qatab Hezbollah, which operates under the direct command of Iran.
Kataib Hezbollah and other militias demanded the withdrawal of the remaining US troops that supported the Iraqi army’s fight against the armed group “ISIS”.
At least four Iraqi militiamen were killed on the border with Syria, and no US troops were injured. But this incident shows how fragile the situation has become, and how the remaining 2,500 U.S. military personnel find themselves increasingly likely to be attacked in the area.
Zunes believes that, of course, the most effective way to ensure the safety of American soldiers is to bring them back to the United States.
“The Iraqi parliament voted last year to withdraw U.S. troops from the country, but [US President Joe] Biden refused to meet their demands,” Zunes said.
The situation is precarious
Zunes added that since ISIL is basically defeated, why the United States needs to keep 2,500 soldiers in Iraq, especially because their presence may trigger a major military confrontation with Iran, which is a serious problem.
However, Washington found itself in a precarious position because it seemed to be the last line of defense against Iranian hegemony in the Middle East.
Tehran has exerted significant influence in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, mainly Iran’s coalition policy makes it possibleAs early as 1982, the Lebanese Hezbollah was established with the active help of the Revolutionary Guards.
So far, this alliance includes The regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad And armed groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In addition, militias from Pakistan and Afghanistan have links with Iran’s Quds Brigade (QF).
For the United States, Iran’s military strength and asymmetric warfare constitute a geopolitical problem. Protecting the US military has become a tightrope walker, and Biden has to act cautiously.
“Biden has indicated that he is willing to use force against Iranian-backed militias, but has also admitted that threats to Iran or provoking war will fall into the hands of Iranian hardliners,” Zunes said.
The center of the conflict is Iraq.
“Therefore, the ongoing conflict also reflects the impact of how Iran and the United States compete on the future direction of Iraq,” Zunes added.
On the payroll
Unsurprisingly, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Khadimi severely condemned the recent air strikes by the United States. The Prime Minister of Baghdad stated that they represent “a flagrant and unacceptable violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and national security”, adding that Iraq refuses to use its territory to “pay bills.”
However, his criticism failed to address the fact that Iraq has been unable to prevent Hezbollah’s attacks on American interests. Hezbollah, as part of the country’s People’s Mobilization Force (PMF), is basically the government’s payroll.
Due to the devastating US sanctions, the pandemic, and falling oil prices, Iran was forced to reduce its financial support for the militias throughout the region.Therefore, the power under the PMF umbrella has been More dependent on Iraqi government funds.
Unable to stop the actions of Iran and the United States on its territory, Iraq now faces some challenges that may offset the progress made in recent years. and, Upcoming elections Simon Mabon, a professor of international politics at Lancaster University, told Al Jazeera that it added another impetus to this issue.
“The slow process of Iraq’s elections has exacerbated the increasingly unstable political, social, and economic conditions that have sparked protests in recent years. The basis for this is the competing nature of Iraq’s political nature and the role of religion-and Iran-in the political sphere. View,” Mabang said.
The rifts within Iraq and the direction of the country are still everywhere.
“While some groups are promoting the desectarianization of Iraqi politics-reimagining or removing religion and religious actors from political life-other groups strongly oppose this process,” Mabang said.
Much of this anger is supported by frustration with Iran’s influence and the actions of Iranian-backed militias, which have already begun. A systematic violent movement Oppose those who oppose their vision, Mabon said.
‘Pay a devastating price’
As a result, Iraq finds itself in an ungrateful situation amidst the tensions between the United States and Iraq.
“As the U.S. strikes on Iraqi facilities [and Syria], Iraqis once again fell into a geopolitical struggle and paid a devastating price,” Mabang said.
In addition, the recent air strikes occurred during international negotiations on the possible return of the United States to the JCPOA.
Maben said that, as a result, the intensification of the conflict has also led to a broader political game between the United States and Iran around the JCPOA and realigning the relationship between Tehran and Washington, especially with the regime’s new leadership.
“As the Islamic Republic voted for a new president, this period of readjustment is the key to shaping the relationship between the two countries and the political future of the region,” Mabang said.
Both sides are highly aware that current developments may affect the negotiation of a comprehensive agreement.
However, Zunes said that the possibility of the United States withdrawing from the negotiating table is still quite incredible, and it will only happen when an agreement is reached and there is no hope of further progress.
In the view of the Biden administration, the Iran nuclear agreement is still a landmark part of its foreign policy, and the main goal of the JCPOA still exists.
“Biden recognizes that the renewal of the agreement will prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, which is of vital importance to the United States,” Zunes said.
Zunes concluded that although Biden, like almost all US officials, is undoubtedly hostile to the Iranian regime, he understands that returning to the nuclear agreement is in the best interests of the United States and the entire Middle East.