Editor’s note: Many Iraqis resent Iranian influence in the country that tips the scales in favor of the Shia Islamist Badr and Dawa parties, that said, wiping out 25 Iraqi servicemen (in this case Popular Mobilization Front paramilitaries) is a line that Iran would have never ever, in a million years, crossed.
Tolerating the USA in Iraq then is increasingly looking less like ensuring there is a counter-balance to Tehran mullahocracy, and a lot more like an invitation to the US to make their country into a battlefield, not just against Iran, but now also against Iraq’s own security formations.
The point where you go from openly defying the directives of the host government and bombing its security forces is the point you turn from a foreign military power with basing rights into an illegal occupier.
Inside Iraq, the country’s people are still reeling from the numerous shocks of the past 40 years: a hugely draining but ultimately unsuccessful war effort against Iran; the disastrous aftermath of Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait; 13 years of crippling UN sanctions; the U.S. invasion and takeover of the country and its subsequent dismantling of all organs of the Iraqi state; the apocalyptic eruption of ISIS in 2014… Under all these shocks, a once proud and well-educated citizenry has become impoverished, resentful, volatile.
Over the past few months, much of the resentment of the populous, predominantly Shiite-Arab south had been turned against Iran, a neighbor that had welcomed Washington’s overthrow of Saddam, had later built a substantial presence in Baghdad and the south—and had cooperated closely with Washington, the Iraqi government, and the Iraqi Shiite militias in their joint campaign against ISIS.
For months now, large-scale protests have rocked Baghdad and cities to the south, calling for the overthrow of “the regime.” Protesters torched several Iranian government outposts in key southern cities. Last month, under the pressure of this ragged movement, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi announced his resignation. The whole, intentionally sectarian political structure that was designed and installed by the United States after the 2003 invasion looked set to collapse.
Washington’s decision December 29 to bomb the KH sites along the Iraqi-Syrian border threw a hand-grenade into that chaotic, but strongly anti-Iranian, political maelstrom. Two key Iraqi Shiite leaders who had implicitly supported the anti-Iran protests, the much-revered Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and the factional leader Moqtada al-Sadr, were quick to express public condemnation of the American raid. As did Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi. All were united in decrying not just the December 29 raid itself but also the fact that Washington launched it despite the fact that Abdul-Mahdi, after being given advance notice of it by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, had specifically asked Washington not to launch it… as he was quick to inform the Iraqi people in its bloody aftermath.
And, of key significance for Americans, Iraqis, and others, throughout these recent days, no one in the U.S. government has even bothered to produce any evidence that might link KH to the December 27 incident in Kirkuk. Instead, the December 29 raid was described throughout by U.S. spokespeople as being intended, in a broad, unspecified way, to “restore deterrence” and to “send a message to Iran,” which has many political and military ties with KH, although operationally KH works in close coordination with the Iraqi military.
Source: Excerpted from Responsible Statecraft