A Raucous Withdrawal and Another Abrupt One... and The Goal is The Same
Perhaps one of the most important news of the past week regarding the Eastern Mediterranean, is what the Wall Street Journal reported from US officials about “a US-Iraqi agreement on the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq at the end of this year”, on the 22nd of this month. This was in the context of meetings of an Iraqi delegation headed by the Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs with its US counterpart. The meetings will be wrapped on Monday, the 26th of this month.
The news in and of itself is not surprising. On the one hand, a general reading of the international situation as a whole, and its economic dimension in particular, shows that it has become a given for think tanks that the obligatory choice for the US in the context of its major battle with China is to globally reposition its forces, so that these forces are concentrated on the immediate borders of China primarily, and Russia in the second degree (if possible).
The question before think tanks is no longer about whether or not the US will withdraw from the Middle East region in the near future, but rather: how will it manage its withdrawal process, and within what timeframes?
On the other hand, and with regard to Iraq specifically, the news is not surprising because the issue of US withdrawal from Iraq has been on the research table for nearly two years, not only politically and in the media, but also through bombing and targeting operations, which have increased, and are likely to increase in frequency, over the coming months.
What we will try to discuss in this article is the difference in the American political-media interaction with the withdrawal from Iraq on the one hand and Syria on the other. This is because withdrawal from Iraq will necessarily lead to the withdrawal from Syria, not only on the basis of the general perception of the American global repositioning, but also for purely logistical reasons. This is because the American military presence in Syria is merely an extension of the presence in Iraq, and this extension cannot continue, if the source is gone.
If the actual discussion of an American withdrawal from Iraq is implicitly a discussion of an American withdrawal from Syria, what is remarkable is the arbitrary separation between the two issues, and even the suggestion, in multiple forms and ways, that what will happen is withdrawing from Iraq and staying in Syria. This proposition has its basis and reasons, which we will try to confine hereinafter.
Withdrawing from Iraq
What is striking about the official announcements made last Thursday by the Iraqi and American sides is that they included some remarks and contradictory remarks at the same time. On the American side, there was talk about “the withdrawal of combat forces” as well as about “repositioning”. On the Iraqi side, the Iraqi Foreign Minister said, among other things: “Our security forces still need the programs offered by the US”.
That last statement received major attacks from a group of Iraqi political forces, as well as from several military bodies, including the “Coordinating Committee of the Iraqi Resistance Factions”, which includes: “Hezbollah Brigades”, “Al-Nujaba”, “Asa'ib”, “Khorasani”, and others.
Also interesting are the two consecutive tweets posted by the official Twitter account of the US State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs Department about the Iraqi visit and the talks. Hereinafter are the two tweets, respectively, because of their importance, in our opinion.
“Excited to welcome our Iraqi partners to the Department today. The Strategic Dialogue is an important opportunity for Iraq and the United States to address cooperation in multiple areas, from health, to energy, climate, and security matters.”
“Happy to welcome our Iraqi Kurdish friends to D.C. and show them the views of our capital. President Barzani and the people of the Kurdistan region are essential partners in the fight against ISIS and we appreciated their input at today’s U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue.”
The first thing to notice about the two tweets is that they are two tweets. We mean that the “strategic dialogue” that the two tweets mention, appear to be two dialogues, not one. Additionally, the meaning of the distinction in the way each tweet addresses the concerned party and the differences in the two tweets, is not difficult to understand.
If we combine the difference between these two tweets to the difference between the conduct of the Iraqi Foreign Minister on the one hand, and the “Coordinating Committee of the Iraqi Resistance Factions” on the other, we will encounter a “traditional Iraqi scene”. By this we mean the artificial division among the “Sunnis”, “Shiites”, and “Kurds”, which the tyrants of Iraq then its invaders, played on, with the goal always being to weaken all Iraqis and Iraq as a whole, first for the benefit of the outsider, and second for the benefit of this outsider’s internal agents.
The matter does not stop at the limits of internal minor divisions, as there are also regional powers that are directly and publicly or indirectly involved in Iraqi affairs, primarily by Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the Zionist entity.
The clear goal of the American media fuss on the issue of withdrawal, which is accompanied by contradictory, vague, and often incomprehensible statements, is, as usual, to “get everyone up against everyone”. In the Iraqi case, the delay in the withdrawal, accompanied by suggestions of repositioning here or there, and implicitly turning the issue of withdrawal from Iraq to withdrawal from a part of Iraq and not complete withdrawal therefrom, all of that primarily aims to turning the Iraqi sides against each other, and then having the intervening regional and international sides turn against each other as well. However, what is also certain is that the American stalling will not be without a price that the Americans themselves will pay, and this price may be high, where the American is forced to gather their things and move on without achieving the goal of detonating the situation.
Withdrawal from Syria
In contrast to the raucous scenario in Iraq, the scenario that we see underway in Syria is one of silence and surprise. This is what we witnessed during Trump’s time and his partial withdrawal in October 2019, which came as a surprise and in coordination with the Turks who started their aggression, the so-called “Spring of Peace” only three days after the partial American withdrawal.
The silence about withdrawal scenario, includes not only silence, but also a lot of deception. That includes what we see these days of false official and semi-official flirting with specific parties inside Syria, especially in northeastern Syria.
It suffices to recall that Trump himself, who practiced the most brazen forms of betrayal through the collusion with Turkey, is the same one whom some celebrated when he described the Kurdish people as great and their fighters as fierce. There was barely a year between Trump’s flirtation and his betrayal (and a reminder should be useful).
The goal of the new flirtation, is the same as the old: “distracting” and “fooling” these parties, in preparation for betraying them soon, so that they are not ready for the sudden American withdrawal. That would achieve the scenario of bloodshed, similar to what happened in October 2019, with hopes of expanding it further, and even by using it as a tool not only for security and military chaos, but also as a tool to disrupt the initiation of a political solution, by supporting and strengthening the “Turkish veto” and by trying to put the Turks up against the Russians in continuation of the same American line of work. This would be in hopes of turning the sudden American withdrawal from Syria into a detonator for a number of internal and external conflicts, so that chaos fills the gap left by the US, and consequently, no side benefits from its withdrawal.
Will this scenario be achieved?
The dangers of this possibility should not be underestimated, and we should work vigorously against it by bringing the Syrian patriotic forces closer together, and in parallel grounding the Turkish veto.
The positive thing about the issue is that the US has been repeating the same scenarios for many years, and it does not add new actual “creativity” to them. This in itself weakens those scenarios and makes them less likely to succeed. However, and again, these possibilities must not be tolerated at all, and nonstop work is required to prevent them.