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article imageUS troops redeployed from Syria to Iraq cannot remain there

By Ken Hanly     Oct 23, 2019 in Politics
Just a few days after the US announced that US troops from Syria were being redeployed to western Iraq US Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced that instead the troops will be returning to the US after all.
Trump has ordered
the bulk of US troops left in Syria out of the country to be redeployed in western Iraq: "Trump ordered the bulk of the approximately 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria to withdraw after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear in a phone call that his forces were about to invade Syria to push back Kurdish forces that Turkey considers terrorists.The pullout largely abandons the Kurdish allies who have fought the Islamic State group alongside U.S. troops for several years. Between 200 and 300 U.S. troops will remain at the southern Syrian outpost of Al-Tanf."
US did not bother to ask permission from the Iraqi government
The Iraqi government issued a statement on hearing about the move noting that the US never asked if the troops could stay. The could only transit through western Iraq on their way elsewhere, presumably the US.
Esper said: "All U.S. forces that withdrew from Syria received approval to enter the Kurdish region [of Iraq] so that they may be transported outside Iraq.There is no permission granted for these forces to stay inside Iraq."
The US at present still has about 5,000 troops in Iraq as part of Operation Resolve designed to train, advise and assist the Iraqi military to fight remnants of ISIS. Esper's remarks are a change from those last week when he said that the troops withdrawn from Syria would stay in Iraq bases and could possibly be used to strike at ISIS in Syria. Those plans had obviously not been cleared with the Iraq government.
Many in Iraq critical of US presence
As a recent article notes : "...there’s a strong union of Iranian and Iranian-backed military and political powers that is actively trying to push the United States out. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander Qassem Suleimani, who is close to the Fatah Iraqi political faction, is determined to do so. The party of the Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who is usually at odds with Suleimani but is in agreement on this issue, has said all foreign troops must go, not just the Americans."
The situation is made more controversial because although the exact number of US troops in Iraq are not known it is suspected to be well above the cap that had been set. Extra troops would raise the number even further above what had been agreed.
There is simply no way the Iraqi government of Abdul Mahdi could weather the arrival of even hundreds of more US troops to Iraq. The quicker the transit the better as far as the Iraqi government is concerned. If the US tries to retain the troops in Iraq for any length of time there may be pressure to evict all US troops from Iraq.
More about US Iraq relations, Mark Esper, US troops in Iraq
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