U.S. troop withdrawal is a winning strategy in supporting Iraq against Iran

(The Washington Times) Iraq’s new prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, is trying to clean up the country and reduce the baleful influence of Iran on its sovereignty.

He is attempting to demobilize the armed Shiite militias and return the parties that sponsor them to purely political status. The United States needs to support him. One of the best tools that we have with which to do that is to make the eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces contingent upon the withdrawal of all Iranian military elements.

The commander of U.S. Central Command, which oversees Iraq, recently made a cogent argument for keeping U.S. forces in the country as a hedge against Iran. As late as 2018, his logic would have made good strategic sense, but the strategic landscape has changed for several reasons.

First, Iraq is no longer a vital U.S. interest. Our country is now energy self-sufficient and the strategic rationale for keeping forces on the ground there diminished with the defeat of ISIS. If Mr. Kadhimi is successful in bringing about reforms which would lessen the Sunni grievances that allowed ISIS to surge in 2014, it will lessen the chances of another Sunni insurgency.

Second, Iran remains a threat, but our primary interest is in keeping Iran from becoming a nuclear power. However, the Israelis appear to be doing a good job of that by covertly sabotaging Iran’s nuclear facilities. In addition, Iran’s military ineptitude has been on display starkly in 2020. From shooting down a civilian airliner to mistakenly sinking one of its own warships, the folly of creating a military that also acts as an internal security force as Iran has done with its Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been laid bare. Such forces inevitably become militarily problematical.

Finally, the troops that America has in Iraq are not configured to repel a conventional Iranian invasion. There are better ways to deter an attack on Iraq.

The real threat to the sovereignty of Iraq is Iranian-backed Shiite militias, which have played a key role in suppressing legitimate dissent and in repressing the nation’s Sunni minority in the guise of guarding against an ISIS resurgence. Mr. Kadhimi is valiantly trying to control and disarm these militias, but they are de facto arms of the IRGC’s Quds force, which effectively equips and leads them.

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