Transforming U.S. forces nominally from combat troops to trainers and advisers is unlikely to satisfy the strong groups supported by Iran in Iraq.
The United States president
Joe Biden said on Monday that the country’s soldiers will end their combat missions in Iraq by the end of the year.
About 2,500 soldier job descriptions were reported to be converted into trainers and advisors.
The announcement raised questions about how the security situation in the country will change: Will Iran gain a more foothold in the country? And will the jihadist organization Isis again become a major threat?
The decision the impact is difficult to assess because the announcement lacked concrete content, says a researcher at the Foreign Policy Institute
“What the decision means in practice remains unclear. Little was said about the exact figures or details. ”
The new roles described are not a big change, Hägglund says.
“The operation in Iraq is already more focused on advice and training anyway. In the long run, this should be pursued, as the goal is for Iraq’s own forces to be responsible for the country’s security. “
However, reducing the number of troops is not impossible either.
Donald Trumpin during the reign, the number of U.S. troops decreased from 3,000 to 2,500. In addition, the possible expansion of the NATO operation has been discussed.
Hägglund believes Iran is skeptical of the recent decision, although it can see it as a positive step in the right direction.
“The U.S. presence in Iraq is a threat to Iran from a national security perspective. It will probably continue to support certain groups and continues to hope that the US presence will weaken. ”
Iran supports a number of paramilitary forces operating in Iraq and is pushing for the full withdrawal of U.S. forces through them.
Iraq various armed forces gained more official status in 2014, when Isis occupied much of northern Iraq and the United States was also called in to help in the fight against jihadists.
With the failure of the Iraqi army, paramilitary forces rose to a significant role. The armed forces that Iran supports have been particularly reluctant to push for a U.S. withdrawal since January 2020.
At that time, the Iranian general
Qassim Suleimani and the leader of the Iranian-backed Iraqi armed forces
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis
died In a U.S. plane crash.
The Iraqi parliament also called for the expulsion of US troops after the attack.
Iran’s rhetoric accelerates, but experts do not believe in quick retaliation – Iraqi parliament wants to expel US-led alliance, NATO to emergency meeting
When required With the withdrawal of U.S. troops, Iraqi armed forces have acted increasingly aggressively, according to Hägglund.
“In recent years, attacks on U.S. troop bases have intensified. There has been a shift to drone attacks, and Iraqi Kurdistan has also been hit, which is new. ”
Hägglund does not believe this will just change after the U.S. announcement.
“The groups will continue to demand the full withdrawal of the United States and continue to exert pressure. It is possible that, as a result of this development, it will be said that no attacks will be made, but in reality they can be continued through surrogate groups. ”
Divers indeed, armed forces pose a significant security risk in Iraq. In addition to hitting U.S. bases, they have been accused of, for example, human rights violations and arbitrary arrests.
Armed forces also violently suppressed anti-government protests in 2019 and are suspected of murdering and killing Iraqi politicians, activists and investigators.
In addition to Iranian-backed groups, there are, for example, groups loyal to the supreme religious leader of Shiite Muslims in Iran, a group of populist politicians, and groups of Sunni Muslim tribes. There are almost twice as many Shiites in Iraq as there are Sunnis.
Also the Sunni terrorist organization Isis remains a threat in Iraq.
“The position of Isis has strengthened, among other things, with January 2020, when tensions between Iran and the United States escalated and operations against the organization came to a halt. Isis has also strengthened during the coronavirus pandemic, ”says Hägglund.
This year, the organization has taken on the names of two explosions that had already become rare in Baghdad. The Iraqi regime declared Isis defeated in late 2017, but the extremist organization still has cells in the country.
“The threat posed by Isis remains significant. However, at least this information will not have much effect on the recent US decision, as the anti-Isis operation continues. “
Conditions are difficult for civilians in Iraq, says Hägglund.
“The security situation remains poor, corruption is strong and there is a lack of investment in infrastructure. Iraq’s health care has also been in a bad state for a long time, and covid has made the situation worse. ”
Rapid relief is not promised, as the country should be developed very comprehensively due to extensive cross-border political, economic and security networks.
Prime Minister appointed after the 2019 protests
Mustafa al-Kadhimi is more cooperative than its predecessors and also tries to tackle corruption.
Al-Kadhimi is a former intelligence director. However, the neutral background of the Prime Minister from outside the parties has also posed challenges.
“He doesn’t have strong background support, and when he’s tried to punish murderers of activists, for example, there has been strong opposition from militant groups,” Hägglund says, referring to paramilitary forces.
Important elections will be held in Iraq in October, and it is possible that the decision taken by al-Kadhim and Biden to withdraw U.S. troops is an attempt to benefit the prime minister in the election.
“This decision may be an attempt to show that there is a dialogue here about the role of the United States in Iraq.”
There are many problems in the country’s electoral system, but according to Hägglund, elections are still a way for many actors to legitimize their power.
“Also, many of the militia groups and other prominent figures will surely keep them in mind in all their activities at the moment.”
Read more: U.S. forces will end their combat mission in Iraq by the end of the year