- Press review: Moscow goes on lockdown and Russian economy headed towards recession
- Press review: G20 tries to unite over COVID-19 and will Russia impose state of emergency
- Putin holds call with Macron, joins G20 summit
- Press review: Putin postpones vote on amendments and G20 to look into lifting sanctions
Long-suffering Iraq faces a war of all against all, which may end in the country's collapse. Political analysts call this phase of the conflict "balkanization".
Amid millions of protests against the presence of US troops in the Iraqi territory, the US is seeking to deepen the split between the Sunnis and the Shiites, between the Arabs and the Kurds, in order to consolidate its military presence in the region. This may lead to the disintegration of the Iraqi state into three parts on grounds of ethnicity and religion.
Protests against the presence of American military forces and bases in the Iraqi territory have been growing over the past two years. Back in February 2018, then Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari stressed that his country needs no foreign armed forces or military bases. We fear that our fate will be similar to Turkey's, where the (NATO-owned) Incirlik base is located, or to Germany, Japan or South Korea with the known bases, al-Jaafari said in an interview with Iranian state television.
The main opponents of the American military presence were the pro-Iranian militia forces (Hashd ash- Sha'bi) consisting mainly of Shiite formations. Their growing activity is virtually disrupting US plans in Iraq. The confrontation between the Americans and the militiamen escalated enough to entail direct armed clashes.
The issue of withdrawing US troops from the Iraqi territory has long been raised by that country's MPs. By killing popular Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, under whose patronage Hashd ash-Sha'bi was created, at the Baghdad airport on January 3, Washington apparently hoped to weaken the link between Iran and Iraqi Shiite political forces. But it happened quite the opposite. On January 5, in response to Soleimani's murder, the Iraqi Parliament passed a law on the immediate withdrawal of all the American troops and bases from the country and instructed the government to agree with the United States on a schedule for such a withdrawal.
But it was not to be. The Trump administration is not going to withdraw its troops, as it has already openly stated, despite Washington's lack of legal basis to be in Iraq. But to leave would mean to give way to the growing influence of Iran and the Iranian Shiite forces that have a majority in the Iraqi Parliament and influence the government formation. This is for one thing. In the next place, this would deprive the US of its control over the Syrian-Iraqi border and the possibility of moving its forces from Syria to Iraq and back. Washington does not want to allow neither of those, because in general, it strategically considers its presence in Syria as a countermeasure to Russia, and in Iraq – as a countermeasure to Iran and its allies in the region.
In the future, the United States plans not only not to wrap up the old bases, but also to create new ones. Thus, Washington was reported to be intending to build a military base in the border areas with Iran, some 50 km north-east of the city of Baqubah in the Sunni Diyala Governorate. This would provide for strengthening control on the border with Iran and block the influence of Hashd ash- Sha'bi in areas where positions of the Shiite militia are strong.
In mid-January, US plans to create new military bases in Iraqi Kurdistan became known to be another step towards destroying the integrity of Iraq. In Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomy, the American delegation held talks with the participation of the military with Iraqi Kurdistan President Nechirvan Barzani and Prime Minister Masrour Barzani. It was about building four bases, including the al-Harir base. Washington openly supports Iraqi Kurdistan, which has long dreamt of gaining independence from Baghdad. This time, the talks focused on strengthening diplomatic relations, political and economic cooperation, and speeding up the process to open Iraq's largest American consulate in Erbil.
As we have seen, American military bases in Iraq and Syria are not designed to support the national security of these countries or the overall regional stability. They serve as a tool for Washington's political dominance and economic interests. By whatever means necessary. After the failure to overthrow Bashar al-Assad and subdue Syria it was decided to create chaos and try to achieve the desired goals in "troubled waters": to strengthen the military presence, ensure control over oil fields and keep the Middle East in a constant state of tension.
After the failure to get rid of the Iranian influence in Iraq, it was decided to tear the country apart into three parts, to gain a foothold at military bases in Sunni and Kurdish territories, pushing the Shiite leadership out of these lands, and to gain control of the oil fields of Kirkuk and Iraqi Kurdistan. One cannot but recall such a proven imperial-colonial tool close Washington's genetic blueprint as the "divide and rule" principle.
Attention is also drawn to regular reports about the Trump administration's attempts to bring the former ruling Ba'ath Party, now banned in the country, back to Iraq. It is worth reminding that Saddam Hussein's party united the Sunnis, with some minor exceptions, although having proclaimed a secular rule. And the dictatorial regime harshly persecuted any Shiite political organizations. The revival of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party in the Republic of Iraq would inevitably lead to an escalation of interreligious conflicts and, subsequently, to the country's disintegration.
Recently, a number of media outlets and social media spread reports that some Sunni parties are allegedly discussing plans to form an independent Sunni region in Iraq. There is no smoke without fire. By abstaining from the vote, the Kurdish and Sunni blocs refused to support the Parliament's decision to withdraw the American troops from the country. Reports claimed that on January 12, prominent Sunni leaders met in Dubai (UAE) to discuss the formation of the Sunni region of Anbar (named after the Iraqi province). Sunni MP Raad al-Dahlaki denied the meeting in Dubai in an interview with al-Monitour. However, he stressed the following: "The Sunni blocs believe that partnership in governing the country does not exist any longer. Our position regarding the removal of foreign troops was not taken into account by the Shiite parties.
Therefore, we are exploring our own options, including the possibility of forming a Sunni region if the termination of the international coalition's missions in Iraq has serious consequences for security and economic environment in the country." Anxiety expressed by the Iraqi lawmaker becomes more understandable if we consider US President Donald Trump's threat to impose even heavier sanctions on Iraq than the anti-Iranian ones if Iraq keeps insisting on the withdrawal of coalition forces. The head of the White House also demanded to return "billions of dollars" spent on the construction of the Ayn al Asad military base, without mentioning, however, that Baghdad did not ask for this.
Sunni speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Mohamed al-Halbousi immediately denied speculations about the Dubai meeting: " We have always believed and worked for the unity of Iraq's territory and nationality. There are no plans to divide Iraq into several regions."
On January 25, millions of people took to the streets of Iraqi cities to demand that the United States withdraw its armed forces from the country. In Baghdad alone, there were about 2.6 million protesters. People responded to the call of the influential Iraqi politician and cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose "Mahdi Army" almost single-handedly resisted the American occupation forces in 2003. The present-day mass protest in Baghdad demonstrated the unity of the Iraqis not only in relation to the US military presence, but also in their desire to preserve the unity of the Iraqi Republic and their national identity.