It’s official. America is looking for ways to re-build its military presence in Iraq as a way to keep an eye on Iran. This was confirmed by none other than the US president, Donald Trump, himself in a recent interview when he said “I want to be able to watch Iran”, adding that “We’re going to keep watching and we’re going to keep seeing and if there’s trouble, if somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we’re going to know it before they do.” Trump had visited Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq on the occasion of Christmas last year. In his interview, he accordingly confirmed that the US will be using that “perfectly situated [military base] for looking at all over different parts of the troubled Middle East.” This confirmation also confirms the underlying objectives of NATO’s New Mission in Iraq. This confirmation also comes in the wake of rather quite negotiations that the US has been doing with Iraq for the past few weeks about a possible deployment of hundreds and thousands of US troops to Iraq, many of whom will simply be moving from Syria to Iraq.
Iraq, too, is preparing for this. A number of factions in the Iraqi parliament are pushing for a legislation that would limit the extent of activities and the missions that the US can carry out inside Iraq. In other words, they’re not opposing this deployment, but only giving it a legitimate cover.
Under the shadow of ISIS
But, of course, the ‘rational justification’ being given for re-deployment to Iraq is ISIS i.e., the threat of its revival. Although this justification does beg the question of how this is happening even when the US has over 5,000 troops based only at Al Asad or in Erbil in northern Iraq? Is the US then naively allowing the group to re-group or facilitating the group to regain its strength?
These are hard questions and answers will only become available in the light of how actually things unfold eventually. But what is crystal clear is that the US is using the pretext of ISIS, which it claims to have defeated in Syria (although it did relatively little to defeat it than to salvage it),