Tops and roots: the United States may deprive Iraq of military assistance
If the Iraqi authorities decide to demand the withdrawal of American troops from the country, the United States will stop military aid to Baghdad
The United States may reduce Congressional-approved military assistance to Iraq – a quarter of a billion dollars a year. According to US media, this is how Washington intends to respond to a possible demand by Baghdad to withdraw the US Armed Forces from the country.
If the Iraqi authorities decide to demand the withdrawal of American troops from the country, the United States will stop military aid to Baghdad. This was reported by the Wall Street Journal, citing electronic correspondence between the Pentagon and the Department of State.
Assistance in the amount of $ 250 million annually has already been approved by Congress and has been paid since 2017. In addition, the State Department’s Middle East Affairs Bureau intends to request the White House to cancel $ 100 million in military assistance to the Iraqi army in 2021.
A final decision on this issue has not yet been made.
A week ago, Reuters reported that the headquarters of Operation Unshakable Decision, a coalition led by the United States, had sent a letter to the Iraqi military. The message said that Washington was ready to leave Iraq.
Shortly thereafter, General Mark Millie, head of the US Army Chiefs of Staff, said the letter was a draft.
“It was a mistake, it was not signed, it should not have been made public,” the US military explained. According to him, the letter was poorly worded and the Americans do not intend to leave Iraq. US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper also disavowed the provisions of a letter handed over to the Iraqi military.
Finally, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington was ready to continue dialogue with Baghdad over the proper structure of the US military presence in Iraq.
Representatives of the Shiite majority voted mostly in favor – parliamentarians decided to stop work under the international agreement on the “anti-terrorist coalition”. Kurdish and Sunni deputies did not attend the parliamentary meeting.
The hearings were held amid a sharp aggravation of the situation in Iraq after the December US airstrikes on the territory of the country – the planes attacked the Kataib Hezbollah group, killing about 25 militants. The U.S. Department of Defense said the operation was in response to regular attacks on US military facilities in Iraq. On December 31, an attack was made on the American embassy in Baghdad – no one was killed, but the security of the diplomatic mission was seriously strengthened. 5 days later, the Iranian military leader Kassem Suleimani was killed by an American missile.
US President Donald Trump said after the Iraqi parliament meeting that the Americans would not leave Iraq, where they invaded in 2003, until Baghdad paid “many billions of dollars” for the air base built during those years.
January 9, Trump called on NATO to “deeper involvement” in the problems of the Middle East against the backdrop of an aggravation of the conflict with Iran. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg agreed that the alliance should be more involved in the situation. An alliance statement released after the conversation said that NATO “can do more for regional stability and the fight against international terrorism.”
It is worth adding that in 2018, Washington began to reduce the number of US troops in Iraq. This happened after the Iraqi authorities announced victory over the Islamic State (Islamic State, an organization banned in the Russian Federation), Reuters reported.
According to a Pentagon report published last November, the number of US troops stationed in Iraq at the end of September was 8,892. A senior Iraqi official told AP that, according to the initial agreement between Baghdad and Washington, 60% of US troops stationed in the country will be withdrawn from Iraq.
According to this plan, about 4 thousand American troops will remain in the country, who will continue to train the Iraqi army.
Earlier, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the Iraqi military would need American training for many more years. The United States has been holding its troops in Iraq since 2003, when it occupied the country as part of an international coalition, overthrowing the regime of Saddam Hussein. After that, a long and bloody civil war began on the shores of the Tigris and Euphrates.
The author of the article is Ivan Apuleev. The original article has been published in Gazeta.ru. Translation and editing by Defenseweek’s team.