Speculations are rising about what the actual US role in Iraq would be in the coming period and how the Iranian-backed militias would be confronted, especially after US President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi have sealed an agreement ending the US combat mission in Iraq at the end of this year.
It is noteworthy that the Iraqi government, even before the meeting between Al-Kadhimi and Biden, emphasized that Iraq still needs the presence of American forces for support purposes in training and rehabilitation so that Iraq can confront terrorism and establish security.
Clarifications and Constant Cooperation
To clarify some points of the US-Iraqi agreement, “Our cooperation against terrorism will continue even in this new stage that we are discussing,” Biden says. Biden has confirmed that the American role in Iraq will be for providing advice and training pointing out that the United States’ activity in Iraq will not be confined to the military side only, rather it will extend to other aspects, such as sending doses of vaccines against the Corona virus to Iraq in the near future. Biden has made it clear that Washington will not leave a void in Iraq.
It is noteworthy that the American forces have about 2,500 soldiers deployed on Iraqi soil and, during the past months, they were attacked with a series of missiles. The Iranian-backed militias are accused of being behind these attacks.
“Our role in Iraq will be … to be available, to continue to train, to assist, to help and to deal with ISIS as it arises, but we’re not going to be, by the end of the year, in a combat mission,” Biden says. He has not directly mentioned the Iraqi militias nor the form of training that will be submitted to the Iraqi forces.
Russian scenario in Iraq
Commenting on the aforementioned agreement, Salah Pachachi, political analyst, considers that the agreement aims to strengthen Al-Kadhimi’s position before the imminent elections, as the agreement would take away what the Iranian-backed militias stand for as resisters to the American presence. Pachachi points out that this step will limit the Militia’s attacks against US forces.
Pachachi also draw attention that the US administration is seeking to repeat the scenario of Russian presence in Syria by not engaging the American forces in ground confrontations and limiting their roles to air strikes, training and rehabilitation operations. He opines that this will have outcomes on ISIS prevalence in Iraq, which would limit its terrorist operations on Iraqi territory.
“Concern that Iraq will turn into another Afghanistan, and that the US withdrawal will be a gateway to expanding the militias’ sphere of control, as is the case with the Taliban, is absolutely out of the question, due to geopolitical considerations specific to the Middle East,” Pachachi adds.
He also emphasizes that the agreement will represent a real blow to the Iranian regime and influence in Iraq, which takes two main pretexts to support the militias: resisting the US presence and fighting ISIS.
Political war and siege in the corner
The basic process behind the Biden -Al-Kadhimi agreement can be described as an attempt to politicize the war on the militias and prevent them from using their weapons against the Iraqi government, according to Sajjad Allawi, a researcher in Iraqi affairs, sees.
Allawi points out that the Biden administration is trying to read the scene and the power of militias realistically on Iraqi soil and deal with it through diplomatic ways away from military confrontations.
“Years of sporadic military strikes were enough to create a conviction in the US that a military confrontation with the militias may achieve results, but it will cause great disasters in a torn country suffers from security problems and the collapse of the state system,” Allawi adds.
He also notes that the military scenario would have benefited Iran, which, for its influence, depends on destabilization and proxy war regardless of the losses that these militias would suffer.
Allawi asserts that the US has no desire to turn Iraq into a battlefield with the Iranian regime, contrary to Iranian desires. He also points out that Biden is working to prevent Iran from exploiting military operations against militias to turn Iraq into a bargaining chip with the international community, which is engaged in protracted negotiations with Iran over the Iranian nuclear program.
Other files and mounting pressure
“Despite the American support provided to the Al-Kadhimi government, the government has not been able to achieve any progress in economic, living and service files yet due to the deteriorating security situation and the military operations, as these operations, whatever their form, affect the Iraqi infrastructure,” Allawi says.
In the same context, Allawi notes that the militia’s incursion into government and security facilities and institutions has reduced the Iraqi government’s ability to confront them militarily. This created concern about the possibility of the Iraqi state’s collapse and the militias’ complete control over it, especially with the tensions that erupted between the government and the militias after the arrest of militia members accused of killing activists.
Simultaneously, Ammar Al-Dulaimi, an economic researcher, indicates that easing the military tension in Iraq under the agreement will be the best support for the Al-Kadhimi government, which will tend to provide more measures to confront the Corona epidemic and the economic crisis, through US aid. This will enable the Iraqi government to face increasing pressure from Iran-aligned parties and armed factions.
Al-Dulaimi stresses that the improvement of economic and living conditions will affect the militias’ ability to attract and recruit young people, as many young people join the militias due to poverty, need, unemployment and loss of job opportunities. This means that if the agreement is implemented, as planned, the militias will be forced to confront a reality with which the use of weapons is not beneficial, Al-Dulaimi says.