As the countdown to parliamentary elections in May begins, some Iraqi politicians are calling for the withdrawal of foreign forces (mainly US troops) from the country on the pretext that there is no need for them.
However, is there actually no need for these forces? We had witnessed a similar situation in 2011, when politicians raised the slogan of restoring state sovereignty and did not calm down until foreign troops (which were also mostly American) were withdrawn while Iraq was still facing a vicious war against Al-Qaeda.
Advocates of withdrawal
At that time, the advocates of withdrawing foreign troops achieved their aim, but the move only helped Al-Qaeda which continued to strike wherever it wanted until things got worse when ISIS occupied one third of the country’s territory. There were plenty of atrocities committed against six million Iraqis, almost half of whom are still living in camps for the internally displaced, while tens of thousands were killed, wounded or held hostage.
The advocates of sovereignty regained it for a while from the Americans, but then they handed it over to Al-Qaeda and then to its heir ISIS on a silver platter. If this renewed call for withdrawal of foreign troops is implemented, it would come as a free gift for ISIS, which has recently started to reassert itself in several locations and districts it has occupied since 2014.
Acting upon Iraqi interests
In fact, ISIS’ resumption of its terrorist activities synchronized with Turkey’s military operations in Iraq and which will not end with expelling or eliminating Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters. Experience has shown that Turkish troops rarely leave an area they occupy, Cyprus and Syria being a clear proof of this fact. The military posts established by Turkey in Iraqi Kurdistan in the 1980s, in agreement with Saddam’s regime, are still extant and have in fact been reinforced with more troops and equipment.
Iran does not like to leave one soldier in Iraq. This is part of its own interests. But Iraqi interest lies in not repeating the mistake of 2011. The withdrawal of international forces, especially US troops, would not just benefit Iran, but it would also benefit ISIS and Turkey.
The right course of action would be to leave the issue and fate of foreign forces to the Iraqi government, as it is the right authority that can decide if there is or is not any need for foreign forces.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Adnan Hussein is the executive editor-in-chief of Al-Mada newspaper and head of the National Union of Iraqi journalists. Previously, he has held the position of Managing Editor in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. He tweets under the handle @adnanhussein.
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