US withdrawal from Syria, its consequences on Iraq

Mejahed Altae’y

Translated by Shaimaa Shedeed

US President Donald Trump unexpectedly decided the withdrawal of the U.S forces from Syria after running some discussions with Turkey and Russia. The decision came following some aggravated internal issues and problems for the U.S President in the White House, however, regardless the internal crises in Washington and the complicated regional situation in Syria, there are number of critical risks expected to be witnessed in the western areas in Iraq, especially in Jazeera area and its bumpy plains. ISIS penetration threats the Iraqi security and its exhausted cities, especially because the U.S withdrawal decision included the suspension of aerial bombardment on the terroristic movements on the borders between Syria and Iraq.

ISIS has rebuilt its lines and activities in Euphrates Basin in Syria and has begun to be more active in some disputed areas in Western and Northern Iraq and on borders. Actually, absence of U.S troops may be resulted in facilitating maneuvering chances for the ISIS to cross into Iraqi territories. On the other hand, while sorties of U.S forces and International Coalition were standing as barrier in front of the Iranian militia and its land border “Tehran- Baghdad- Damascus- Beirut”, the U.S forces withdrawal now might reactivate the ISIS armed groups and militias and their ideologies and crossing borders ambitions that will inevitably bring more ruins and devastation to Iraq.

Iraq now is facing a crucial crisis recalls the repeated security concern and what happened on its western boarders before, but the U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promised Iraq that U.S will be committed to fighting the ISIS, hinting that such terroristic armed groups have been eliminated and was no longer capable of forming a real jeopardy on Iraq.

The U.S decision implied that the U.S troops are to withdraw partially according to a timetable of 60-100 days, but it actually didn’t imply the destination and whether the forces will move all at once or on staged order to its near bases existed in the Syrian-Iraqi borders namely “al-Tanf base”, Ramlan Airport on the Iraqi-Syrian-Turkish border, al-Shadadi base near the Khabur River, Anbar province, South Mosul, and Kurdistan region of Erbil. Such withdrawal to the borders serves Iraq through the reinforcement of security and intensifying the U.S forces there, as it still seems illogical leaving the border bases without monitory while such bases are in continuous conflict with terroristic forces.

The critical risk to which Iraq is likely to be exposed has two sides. The first one includes the incapability of the Iraqi security forces to protect its borders from the ISIS return and from the Iraqi militia continual crossing to Syria. The  second one includes the possibility of withdrawing the U.S forces from Iraq in 2019 in case President Trump keeps his promise of withdrawal from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, which will lead Iraq to tend to the Iranian side, consequently, on the U.S level and the international level, Iraq will be in one criterion with Iran. This will mean a failure in the policy of distancing from the bipolarity policy, especially after the U.S has extended the deadline of stopping importing Iranian gas and commodities from 45 days to 90 days until reaching a solution and an alternative to the Iranian products. However, it is noteworthy that Iraq with its government and political forces is incapable of taking such decision. In that context, the new Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi announced that Iraq wasn’t intended by these sanctions over Iran, but in worst scenario, still, there is a possibility of including Iraq in the sanctions imposed over Iran due to non-compliance which will be resulted in a risk of Iraqi involvement with Iranian immature policies in the region.

Following the decision of U.S forces withdrawal from Syria, James Mattis, U.S Defense Secretary submitted his resignation as well as Brett McGurk, U.S anti-ISIS envoy, which refers to the reality that Trump’s military policy has really changed after Iran striking show. This means that reinforcing the U.S existence in the military bases and soldiers withdrawal from the open fields are actions seen as preparation of a logistic support to Israel in case of attacking the Iranian nuclear reactors or in case of bombing any Iranian targets in Syria and Iraq. This interprets the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zareef statements through which the Iranian tone towards Israel was clearly palliated when he questioned “Who said that we want to destruct Israel or that we target its removal from the map”. Surly, such statements point to a real Iranian fear of Israeli strikes especially because we are used to the Iranian statements that are full of challenging, menacing and mocking against any claims of attack.

In conclusion, there is a political rule says “politics hates vacuum” which means that any political or military vacuum any power leaves, will be filled with another power whether accepted or not. The U.S forces left a military emptiness in Syria which is likely to be filled with Turkey, Iranian militia or the arising ISIS forces. In the meantime, it may be a dominance line for Russia for which Washington has dragged Russia in order to be involved in attrition battle with its rivals. In all cases, the tension on the Iraqi borders with its unstable areas that suffer regional conflicts and insurgents doesn’t serve Iraq by any mean, especially after the Washington Post Newspaper has published a report about the financial capability of ISIS. According to this report, ISIS still owns financial capability in hard currencies and gold estimated with 400,000,000 U.S.D, an amount can achieve a self-financing and suggests prospective return.

Leave a Response