The Trump administration insists that "maximum pressure" on Iran is working, as the United States exerts consistent diplomatic, economic, and military pressure to restrict Iran and its allies across the Middle East. However, in Iraq, the stance of confrontation by the United States is weakening US influence and empowering Iran and its Iraqi allies.
After a deadly rocket attack on foreign forces in Iraq and retaliatory air strikes by the United States this month, the United States has now firmly locked in a cycle of tit-for-tat violence between Iraqi paramilitary personnel linked to Iran. If this cycle continues or escalates, and there are reports that the Pentagon has a plan to "destroy" a paramilitary faction, it will have a catastrophic end to the United States and Iraq.
Iraq is facing an unprecedented crisis because the spread of coronaviruses and falling global oil prices have seriously threatened its economy and the country's ability to provide ordinary Iraqis. Most importantly, the country does not need the U.S. to bomb Iraqi paramilitary personnel, which can polarize Iraqi politics between pro-American and anti-US camps and help thwart efforts to name a new government that may face the country's grim situation . Further unilateral action by the United States will only amplify the voice in Iraqi politics, and they believe that Americans must go now. Paramilitary personnel continue to attack the US military, and Iran's Iraqi allies will consolidate their influence in the country's politics and may force the United States to withdraw from Iraq.
If the United States wants to maintain US-Iranian relations or stay in Iraq to help combat the ongoing insurgency in the so-called Islamic State (ISIL), it will have to break this cycle of retaliation, but not through the promotion of Iraqi paramilitary personnel To solve. There is a better way for the United States, although it has its own risks: restraint. If the United States persists, the pause in this cycle could create conditions for Iraqis to form a new government that can partner with Washington and negotiate a new legal framework for the US and coalition forces to retain. This could weaken the anti-American narrative currently prevailing in Iraqi politics.
The biggest hope for the United States to maintain security in Iraq is to set fire. Otherwise, it may fall into an awkward strategic failure.
A slow clash
The U.S. drone strike killed Iran's senior General Kudes, General Qassem Soleimani, and senior Iraqi security officials and associates Military veteran "Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis" (Jamal Ja & # 39; far) on January 3 apparently meant "restoration of deterrence." It didn't. Iraqi paramilitary forces resumed their attacks on the United States only a few weeks later. The attack on the country's assets has rekindled the slow-burning conflict between the United States, Iran, and the Iranian allies.
The latest outbreak was on March 11, when several hail rockets hit Iraq outside Baghdad. Camp Taji, a military base, killed two U.S. soldiers and a British army as part of a U.S.-led international coalition to fight ISIL. The next day, the United States launched a campaign against Iraq ’s so-called paramilitary group Kata Hezbollah ’s weapons storage facility has carried out air strikes in retaliation. The Pentagon warned in a March 12 press release: "These terrorist groups must stop Assault, or face the consequences at a time and place of our choosing. "At the same time, Iraqi officials say the U.S. strike has actually killed Iraqi soldiers and police as well as a civilian worker. The Joint Operations Command of the Iraqi Security Forces described the bombing of the United States as" a bombing of Iraq " Naked aggression. "Two days later, unknown attackers-apparently not obstructed-again attacked Tajib camp, wounding three US troops and several Iraqi people.
The rockets on March 11 were just The latest and deadliest strike in a series of attacks on U.S. assets in Iraq was carried out in the summer of 2019. During this period, a series of devastating incidents, mainly aimed at U.S. interests and the entire Middle East Allies ’attacks were largely unprovoked, including a September attack on Saudi Arabia ’s oil facilities. For the Trump administration ’s“ maximum pressure ”policy, most or all of these actions appear to have been carried out by Iran and its local allies. Part of a coordinated movement.
Iran's asymmetric retaliation
Iran's failure to act in harmony with the United States A defensive organization organized for frontal military confrontation. Instead, Iran has developed a wide range of asymmetric capabilities, including the cultivation of capable, motivated non-state allies throughout the region.
In Iraq, it is sometimes referred to as "Iran" forces The performance is mainly Iran's many Iraqi allies. Iranian officials have invested in long-term social, political, and economic relations with Iraqi political and paramilitary factions. These officials now use this connection to build and disrupt Iraqi factions. In 2014, as Iraq assembled paramilitary auxiliary units to fight back, most of the armed factions previously aligned with Iran were formally included in Iraq ’s newly formed People ’s Mobilization Force ( al-Hashd al-Sha & # 39; bi ) ISIL. However, this subset associated with Iran not only self-identified as part of the mobilization of the people, but also identified as the "resistance" faction ( fasail al-Muqawama ) -Proponents of the cause of imperialism and anti-Zionism, as well as areas organized by Iran They are often reduced to Iran's "agents." Even though these groups have a common cause and often coordinate actions with Iranian officials, they have their own personalities and interests.
The regional conflict between the United States and Iran has previously been in The crisis point was reached in December and January when U.S. retaliated. Air strikes on Iraq and Syria's Kataib Hizbullah launched another deadly rocket attack. Iraqi mourners pay tribute to fighters of the organization and other supporters of Iranian-backed factions After attacking the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, the United States reacted in shock, drones killed Soleimani and Muhandis, and two men left Baghdad International. Airport.
As the United States and Iran entered into a threatening deal, this alarming escalation raised fears of a full-scale regional war. Iran responded on January 8 by firing more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two Iraqi military bases that hosted the United States and Allied forces. Thanks to some early warning and healthy luck, although more than 100 were later diagnosed with brain trauma during the attack, no American soldier was killed in the missile attack. Washington described Iran's response as an effective downgrade and a big deal. Iranian Foreign Minister Jayad Zarif announced that its defensive response had "concluded", saying: "We will not seek escalation or war, but we will defend ourselves against aggression."
But the fears of those wider regional wars have dissipated. But the missile attacks represented only direct public retaliation from Iran. It then strategically adjusted its direction to expel the United States from the region. A strike does not necessarily satisfy the local Iranian allies with their own institutions and scores.
In the shock of Solemany's death, people were shocked that the United States had also killed Mohandis. One of the most influential leaders of the people's mobilization and resistance factions. Because of how Iran assembled its security exoskeleton in the region, the Iraqi paramilitary alliance is clearly capable and motivated to respond to the U.S. killing of Muhandis and Soleimani, with or without Iran's urge.
Following the deaths of Muhandis and Soleimani, these Iraqi politicians attempted to ensure the withdrawal of the United States by political means, and the parties initially promised restraint . However, as these political efforts stalled, the attack resumed, and the expelling of foreign forces was back on the country's agenda.
Anti-American Transformation of Iraqi Politics
The US Killed Soleimani and Muhandis Reorganized Iraqi Politics, Made Iranian-Friendly Factions Take Rejections to Foreign "Occupy", and Made New The active efforts required the United States to leave the country.
On January 5, the vast majority of the Iraqi parliament voted to authorize the Iraqi government to "end the presence of foreign troops in the country." The parliamentary resolution, although formally non-binding, still seals legislation with Prime Minister Adel Abdulmahdi to inform the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad that he intends to implement the resolution and invites Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ( Mike Pompeo) established a mechanism to withdraw from the US military. Washington rejected him and announced that he was not interested in discussing the withdrawal.
The weight of Abdullah Madi's request remains to be debated, as the caretaker prime minister has done. Abdullah Madi resigned at the end of 2019, but remained in that role until he assumed the position of Abdullah Madi. Confirmed successor-based on non-binding parliamentary resolution. Still, the combination of the resolution and the demands of the Prime Minister changed Iraq's political rhetoric and made Iraq's political debate about the legitimacy of the United States part of the anti-ISIL movement. Previous attempts by friendly Iranian parties to legislate the United States out of Iraq have failed. It was because of the killings of Soleimani and Muhandis that they won political support and parliamentary votes for the move, as well as Shiite camps that had previously In favor of the need to build an alliance, although divisions exist even among the parties that voted for it
The use of parliamentary votes by armed factions allied with Iran has not only emphasized the legitimacy of the United States' existence, but also the corresponding legal rights to resist the "occupation" of the United States . They praised the recent attack but also avoided claiming responsibility. This has created enough ambiguity for them to describe the attack as an organic popular resistance operation, while also protecting their own interests in Iraqi politics.
The clumsy revenge of these attacks has undermined U.S. political status in Iraq and stirred up opposition Iraqis who are not "resistant" thinkers, but do not want their country to be a bloody bloody settlement for the United States and Iran.
Iraqi security officials told us in the past several telephone interviews that in a few weeks, the United States had notified the Iraqi security agencies in advance of the retaliatory strike, but otherwise unilaterally implemented sanctions, which destroyed Iraqi officials' The trust of the US government, they think that the US government's behavior is not like a partner, but more like an occupying army. They said that the bombing of the United States on March 12 killed Iraqi security personnel and Iraqi civilians, and that trust was further eroded. These strikes have even sparked condemnation of Washington by friendly Iraqi nations and provided more impetus for US forces to withdraw from the country. Iraqi President Barham Salih, who is considered sympathetic to the United States' existence, has condemned the "foreign bombing" and the loss of Iraqi life, calling it "a violation of national sovereignty." Iraq ’s Joint Operations Command said in a statement issued after the March 14 rocket attack on Camp Taji that U.S. unilateral actions "do not limit these actions. Instead, it has fueled their lives and weakened the Iraqi state. Capabilities and caused further losses to Iraqis and others, all of which required the speedy implementation of parliamentary resolutions on withdrawal. "
US unilateral retaliation has incurred goodwill even among Iraqi people
Disastrous impact on Iraq and U.S.-Iraq relations
Tensions between the United States, Iran and Iran ’s Iraqi allies continue to be tense, resulting in intermittent violent spasms- It has had far-reaching negative effects on Iraq-US-Iran relations. If this situation continues, it will further destabilize the country and may cause more Iraqis to fight the United States.
This conflict has intensified since the domestic political crisis that broke out in Iraq in October 2019, when large-scale youth protests broke out across the country. Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi succumbed to popular pressure and resigned in November. But Iraqi politicians have since failed to form a new government, a task that has been complicated by internal divisions in the United States. It is difficult to find a candidate for the post of prime minister suitable for political positions and activists. U.S. killing of Soleimani and Muhandis has led Iran-friendly parties and paramilitary forces to step up their rejection of U.S. presence in the country, further enabling the country to support the United States and continue to play a role Polarization has developed between nations. The result was a deadlock.
Political polarization has also occurred at the sectarian level, offsetting some of the progress Iraq has made since the defeat of ISIL in 2014. The marked reduction in sectarian polarization has originally helped to strengthen ISIL, which is a Sunni mass mobilizer against Shiites in Baghdad. Recently, Iraqis have formed a cross-sectarian political alliance and gradually established personal contacts between all walks of life. However, as Iraqi politicians split again into a unified camp between the United States and Iran, they also split along racial-sectarian lines. The Iraqi parliament's resolution calling for the deportation of foreign troops was passed by a majority of Shiite MPs, while most Sunni and Kurdish representatives avoided attending the session. As far as Kurds and Sunnis are concerned, they have strengthened their contacts with the United States as they have seen escalating tensions support Iran's allies in Shi'ite internal politics in Iraq. Without the United States, they worry that the words of those parties allied with Iran will prevail on Shiite politics and on the Iraqi national stage. This reorganization of the Iraqi parliament along racial and sectarian lines has continued as the country's political parties have endlessly talked about the appointment of the prime minister.
The result is a political vacuum, and paramilitary personnel can continue to attack U.S. and foreign forces at close range.
Iraq needs government, especially as the plunge in oil prices has worsened the country ’s dependence on oil and the spread of coronavirus has threatened When life paralyzed the country's economy, they were impunity. . However, without the interlocutors of the Iraqi government, the United States and its allies cannot negotiate a revised agreement that would provide legal cover and reduce Iraq's political resistance in the country. Coalition members had hoped to design some new programs or relocate foreign troops in Iraq to symbolically de-emphasize the role of the United States and move the less controversial coalition members forward. But it will be more difficult if tensions continue. In addition, this tension has made it impossible for coalition partners to move, otherwise it may promote the formation of the Iraqi government or involve Iranian friendly parties and paramilitary factions in discussing the downgrade. Recent attacks on coalition forces may instead encourage these countries to withdraw their active military personnel from the country. Members of the coalition, including Britain, France, Italy and Spain, have all announced that they will withdraw from Iraq, mainly because of the danger of coronavirus and related pauses in Iraqi troop training, but the background is ongoing tensions and rocket attacks.
Tensions benefit ISIS
The escalation between the United States, Iran and its local friends has damaged joint efforts to combat the remnants of ISIL, which It is the reason for the United States and the Alliance that the troops started in Iraq. The jihadists continue to wage rebellions in Iraq as small, independent guerrillas fighting on the most rugged and terrible terrain in Iraq, including mountains and vast deserts. In these areas, ISIL militants can carry out terrorist attacks on peripheral rural communities. Iraqi forces cannot properly "capture" this rebel-friendly terrain. To maintain effective pressure on ISIL militants in these rural safe harbors, Iraqis have therefore relied on assistance from a US-led coalition that provides Iraqi forces with key technical capabilities such as air support, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. In addition, the alliance has provided training and advice, which will be crucial in the long run for Iraq to achieve self-sufficiency.
Tensions since January have impeded cooperation between the United States and Iraqi security forces, allowing Iraqis to continue their pursuit of ISIL, reducing coalition assistance, and the effect appears to have diminished. At least in some ways, ISIL has benefited from more aggressive targeting of Iraqi forces and deterring civilians in rural areas.
If the attack on the coalition forces escalates, Iraq ’s pressure on the US withdrawal will increase to the point that the United States must withdraw, and almost all members of the coalition that rely on US logistics and political forces may leave. The United States has provided the majority of Iraq's coalition forces and the capabilities most conducive to combating ISIL; there are no clear alternatives. The withdrawal of coalition forces and the loss of coalition support appear to be the most direct way to reduce pressure on the remaining ISIL personnel, which has enabled them to increase their rebellion qualitatively and to expand in number and geography. Steps are being taken to integrate U.S. forces into fewer, easier-to-defend bases, which could undermine U.S. forces' contribution to Iraq's anti-ISIL efforts.
If the United States is forced to leave Iraq in an ugly, controversial manner, it could poison Iraq's bilateral relations. The Trump administration may rule that Iraq is completely under Iran's control and refuse to reiterate existing exemptions, exempting Iraq from sanctions on Iran (Iran on which Iraq generates electricity), and even taxing threatens Iraq The new sanctions themselves make the country's already difficult
the withdrawal of the United States will also disrupt Iraqi politics, because Iranian friendly Iraqi forces may find themselves capable of controlling government personnel and policies. Even if the ISIL insurgency intensifies, it will only increase the influence of these forces. As Iranian-connected paramilitary personnel stand out in their fight against jihadist groups, their central role in national security will translate into enhanced political influence. At the local level, these US-led alliances have not been able to rely on the same technologically advanced, precise tools (such as precise air strikes and the detailed intelligence that made them possible) to fight ISIL. If they turn to a more blunt, less discriminatory approach to fighting ISIL in most Sunni areas, they could pay a huge human price and re-ignite deep social divisions.
Recapture Strategic Initiatives
The United States should recognize that for the United States, the current escalation dynamics in Iraq are a failed dynamic.
The United States has taken retaliatory air strikes, and has chosen resolute military means to protect its troops and deter Iran, the provocation of associated factions. It did not succeed. The attacking groups were not deterred. In addition, every thoughtless attempt may repeat the events of the March 12 strike, killing indifferent Iraqis, and mobilizing more Iraqis to resist the continued existence of the United States. The United States faces a dilemma: It needs to protect its troops and it is difficult to allow these attacks to pass without any recombination. However, the seemingly uncoordinated reaction of the United States and its Iraqi partners-apparently to make American personnel safer-runs the risk of making Iraq more hostile and dangerous and potentially untenable to US forces.
All this distracts why the United States is said to be in Iraq. The United States continues to insist that its troops are there to support Iraqis' own anti-ISIL efforts, not to wage war on Iran and its "agents." The United States needs to protect its personnel. But by plunging itself into repeated retaliatory strikes, the U.S. military allows self-defense and force protection to consume its initial mission. U.S. forces that have violently clashed with Iraqi factions sometimes sacrifice the strength of Iraqi bystanders, civilians and military personnel, but have not effectively promoted anti-ISIL efforts, which is a net disadvantage to Iraq's security.
This tit-for-tat escalation won't work even for the Trump administration's stated goal of countering Iran's regional influence.
Its rapid retaliatory strike was designed to convey American strength and determination. In fact, they mainly show how Washington has ceded this initiative to Iran-linked opponents, who can determine when and how the United States reacts next. Every mistake made by the United States will only play a role, further weakening the influence of the United States in the country and increasing the possibility of a complete US withdrawal.
Of course, this dynamic is two-way, but the armed factions demanding that the United States withdraw have no reason. Stop it. Asymmetrically running paramilitary personnel are launching low-cost and sustainable development. For them, the violence is working-they now seem to be significantly reducing the U.S. influence in Iraq, biasing Iraqi politics towards its agenda, and, if they drive the U.S. out of the country completely, they will achieve a major strategic victory in the region .
If anyone wants to break this cycle of revenge, it must be the United States. But this cannot be done by doubling the threat and introspecting the deterrent response. The United States cannot realistically expect Iraqi security forces to face open conflicts in the face of these paramilitary factions. Instead, the best opportunity for the United States is restraint, consulting with Iraqi partners, and providing opportunities to form a new Iraqi government.
With the new government, the United States and its allied partners can negotiate a new agreement on the redeployment of Iraqi authorities and oversight of foreign forces in Iraq; even if it only symbolically reduces the United States ’footprint in Iraq; Countries face joint efforts to support Iraq. Such an agreement can not only consolidate the legal legal basis for the existence of coalition forces, but also weaken foreign occupations that condemn the existence of the US military as a foreign occupation that violates Iraq's sovereignty. If the dispute over the legitimacy of foreign forces can be diluted, political and popular forces advocating a more balanced relationship with the United States and Iran should reaffirm their position. Washington will also be more free to work with Baghdad on initiatives that could win lasting US goodwill in Iraq, such as support for the country's coronavirus response.
This broader political shift may also limit anti-US paramilitary forces, which will be disregarding whether the government and laws of the country continue to armed "resistance" to US and foreign forces. These factions are not completely immune to Iraqi politics. They have an ideology and an agenda, but they must also consider public opinion in Iraq.
This may be a long attempt. Nonetheless, this is still the United States ’greatest hope of staying in the country under relatively stable conditions, both to continue its fight against ISIL, which is an important US priority, and to balance Iran ’s influence on Iraqi politics. The downgrading and upgrading of Iraq is in the interest of the United States. It can help create conditions to form a new government and strengthen US-Iranian relations. That is not a true strategic victory, even if it is not a victory on the battlefield.
Maria Fantappie is a Special Advisor for the Middle East and North Africa at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. Follow Maria on Twitter: @MariaFantappie.
Sam Heller is a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, a non-state armed group, part of the group's jihad in Modern Conflict. Follow Sam on Twitter: @AbuJamajem.
Picture: Mehr News Agency