By Robert Inlakesh
Robert Inlakesh is a journalist, writer and political analyst, who has lived in and reported from the occupied Palestinian West Bank. He has written for publications such as Mint Press, Mondoweiss, MEMO, and various other outlets. He specializes in analysis of the Middle East, in particular Palestine-Israel. He also works for Press TV as a European correspondent.
Despite the Iraqi Parliament’s decision to demand an end to foreign troops presence inside of Iraq, the United States is still there and is not showing signs of an imminent withdrawal. In fact the United States President, Donald Trump, has urged the increase of the NATO alliances presence in West Asia. This essentially means that the US forces in Iraq are officially an occupation force, illegally occupying land against the will of the Iraqi people and government.
On the 5th of January the Iraqi Parliament voted to oust US forces from Iraqi soil, this comes after the US had stationed over 5,000 troops in the country, in order to help combat the threat of Daesh. But long after Daesh was defeated, we still see the continued presence of the US illegally inside the country.
US President, Donald Trump, has stated – contrary to International law – that he will withdraw American military personnel from the country on the condition that Iraq pay the United States for military facilities. Trump has also threatened to slap sanctions on Iraq and has allegedly drafted those sanctions, for Iraq’s decision to expel US forces. The sanctions are speculated to include prohibiting of Iraq from accessing accounts in which it receives the countries oil revenue, this would mean a devastation of Iraq’s already fragile economy. Essentially what the United States is doing amounts to international-monetary blackmail.
On top of this, the US has no legal reason to remain inside of Iraq and the Prime Minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, has confirmed that the US should indeed leave. Meaning that US forces now remaining inside of Iraq are tantamount to an occupation force. Of course the United States has, since 2003 has been the dominant force in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussain, an invasion which was justified on the basis of non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
This constant US presence has not, despite the promises, brought a better standard of living the people of Iraq. As we have seen throughout the past years, many protests have broken out throughout Iraq against the poor conditions under which the people live. Now, after the illegal assassination of General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, it has become very clear to the Iraqi people that the US never was and is not a legimate ally. This is why Moqtada al-Sadr, one of the most prominent Iraqi Shia Clerics and Militia leader, who has often taken a critical tone to Iran, has now backed the move to expel the US from Iraqi soil as well as calling a million man march to free Iraq from the US.
The US history of interaction with Iraq is a kind of continuation of Iraq’s relationship with the British. The US acts as a type of colonial power, dictating what Iraq does and in which way it is to behave, this being something that is unacceptable for the Iraqi people, who like all others wish to see their country free and independent.
The US forced defacto installed Saddam Hussein, later pushing Iraq into a war it backed against Iran, resulting in approximately one million deaths. The US and Europe then supplied Saddam Hussein with his notorious chemical weapons, with which he killed his own people. Then when Iraq invaded Kuwait, the US wreaked havoc upon Iraq’s infrastructure and mass murdered approximately 100,000 people. The US then sanctioned Iraq, throughout the 90’s and into the 2000’s, punishing not Saddam Hussein but the civilian population of the country, this resulted in the deaths of over 800,000 children in Iraq. Then on top of that, we are all aware of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the removal of Saddam Hussein, which resulted in sectarian war, the rise of Daesh, the rise of al-Qaeda in Iraq and the murder of a million people, as well as the displacement of approximately 7 million people.
Another important aspect pertaining to US involvement in Iraq, is Iraq’s gradual shift towards independence from the United States of which the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) has a large part to play. With the election of Adel Abdul Mahdi to Prime Minister of Iraq, the US has been put out of a great deal of the decision making they previously enjoyed inclusion in. Notably Abdul Mahdi went against the US on a number of key issues, including taking a stance against Trump’s “Deal of the Century”, opening the Iraq-Syria border, opening up the US green-zone surrounding the US Embassy, refusing a trade deal with Saudi Arabia, negotiating a multi-billion dollar trade deal with China, refusing to disband groups within the Haashd al-Shabi (PMU/PMF) and also refusing to sanction Iran.
The protests in Iraq which were taking place last year and resulted in hundreds of deaths, after the frustrated people of Iraq poured out onto the streets for a number of reasons, primarily including their anger over the lack of progress in the country. These demonstrations were not without US influence however.
Largely unreported upon in the Western press is the way in which the US has indeed entrenched its presence in Iraq during its 17 year military presence in the country – following the US invasion of 2003 – and how deep their infiltration of Iraqi society has been. The US has successfully created or been involved in creating over 400 civil society organizations in Iraq, running training courses connected to many of these organizations in the United States. Meaning that Iraqis who belong to these organizations will travel to the US to receive training, these organizations also receive huge monetary gain from US donors. During the demonstrations, some of the masked men were seen firing weapons and/or inciting other types of violence were arrested and identified with different US organizations. The demonstrations, despite the bloodshed, proved to not result in the toppling of the Iraqi government and did not descend into a bloody civil war, as the US may have very well have benefited from.
With the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, Abu Mahdi al-Mahdis, as well as other high ranking Iraqi military leaders, the US seems to be lashing out in desperation against Iraq, trying desperately to yet again divide the country and to perhaps depose the PMU and Adel Abdul Mahdi.
If Trump continues down his administration’s current trajectory, it seems as if his regime will only seek to cause more death and destruction in Iraq, giving the people of Iraq no choice but to take up arms in order to expel their illegal occupiers.