After the Iranian missile attack on the joint U.S./Iraqi bases, many are wondering what happens next. And then, will the U.S. still be forced to leave Iraq, after Iraqi lawmakers passed a non-binding resolution to kick out American troops from the country?
First of all, some of what will transpire will have to do with the attack itself. Were any Americans wounded or killed? Did the United States suffer any material damage, to aircraft, equipment, and/or facilities? All of this matters a great deal.
It appears that no one was injured in the missile attack. That is good news. We haven’t heard about any damage yet. And we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out.
And just as big as an issue is Iran itself. Was this missile attack, their face-saving measure? Can it be satisfied that it “slapped the U.S. in the face” as they proclaimed on social media?
Each side now has had a chance to sit back and assess what has transpired. Any further action now by either side will likely trigger a massive response that may be the tipping point for a full-fledged shooting war.
Some people believe that the Ain Al-Asad Air Base was chosen as a target by the Iranians because it has few personnel and is remote. Thus the Iranians could save face but not over-escalate things to a point of diminishing returns.
But this brings us to the second point, which is: will the United States still be forced to leave Iraq after this latest missile attack? The answer is: possibly but probably not anytime soon.
And unfortunately for the United States and fortunately for Iran, the fact that we pushed democracy in Iraq may ultimately lead to our ouster. Iraq’s democratically elected government, which was installed by the United States, may lead to the U.S.’s undoing in Iraq. So, the Iranians may force the Americans out, not with missiles, or Quds Forces, or their proxy militias, but by the vote.
If Iraq’s prime minister signs the non-binding resolution to oust American forces, then according to the Strategic Framework Agreement that the U.S. and Iraq signed, the United States would be forced to withdraw American troops. The Strategic Framework Agreement states: “The temporary presence of U.S. forces in Iraq is at the full request and invitation of the sovereign Government of Iraq and with full respect for the sovereignty of Iraq.”
With the U.S. gone, our European allies and coalition members would be left with no choice but to leave Iraq as well. This would have far-ranging implications not just in Iraq but in Syria as well because the coalition troops in Syria are very dependent on support from Iraq.
That would effectively give Iran a huge strategic victory in Iraq as well as in Syria. President Trump, as he is prone to do, took to Twitter and threatened huge sanctions against Iraq if it indeed ousts the U.S. from the country. Now isn’t the time for threats but for negotiations. The United States and Iraq can come to a new agreement and keep open American involvement in the fight against ISIS while continuing to train the Iraqi Security Forces. Any ouster of the Americans would no doubt end any continued support from the U.S. towards Iraq.
So, while the Iraqi Prime Minister can ask the American troops to leave, this would leave the Iraqis completely at the mercy of the Iranians. The outlook for Iraq then wouldn’t be good at all.