Iraqis differ in Reactions to US Combat Troops’ Departure

Aswat al-Iraq reports on reactions to the withdrawal of US combat brigades from Iraq in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

The head of the Basra Provincial governing council, Jabbar Amin, said that the American combat forces had withdrawn at dawn on Thursday, which would charge the Iraqi forces with their true mission, in strengthening security and stability. He pointed out that the Iraqi army had taken over the major combat role from American troops a year ago, and had principally been doing training since then. (Amin is from Islamic Mission Party = Iraq Organization, [Da'wa Tanzim al-Iraq], a branch of the party of caretaker prime minister Nuri al-Maliki). This point of view, representative of the current government of Iraq, stresses the ability of the Iraqi military and other security forces to keep order in the wake of the American departure.

Husain Talib, a member of the Ahrar Party that supports Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, said that “The withdrawal of American troops from Iraqi soil, if it happens, is a tiding of good news for for all Iraqis.” He said that all the tragedies and the difficulties in getting services and the deterioration of the security situation were because of the US forces. He added that the security forces of Iraq would have forced an American withdrawal had they not been foreign agents or Baathists. (This is a slam at the Iraqi government of Nuri al-Maliki). This point of view, common among strong Iraqi nationalists, blames US forces for all of Iraq’s problems and so sees the departure of American troops as offering a better situation in and of itself.

Abu Muhammad, an official of the Iraqi Communist Party in Basra said, “In general, we are with the withdrawal of the American forces and Iraq’s achievement of complete sovereignty.” “But,” he added, “the withdrawal must be orderly and must be undertaken in coordination with the Iraqi security forces and especially the ministry of defense, especially since a withdrawal at this juncture, which is characterized by political problems, could send the wrong message to the terrorists.”

Note that an official of the Communist Party of Iraq is worried that the US is withdrawing too fast!

Aljazeera English reports on Iraqi reactions to the withdrawal of US combat troops, and finds the same anxiety and caution expressed by Abu Muhammad in a Sunni Arab woman of Adhamiya in Baghdad, who thinks it is irresponsible for US troops to depart before the Iraqi political crisis is resolved and a new government formed.

Liz Sly of the LAT in Baghdad says that many Iraqis have misgivings about the timing of the US withdrawal and fear a descent into chaos, as their political elite proves still unable to form a new government months after the March 7 elections. She says there was no dancing in the streets at Thursday’s announcement. She does not quote the Sadrists or the Sunni nationalists, who are the groups most likely to be delighted, though also the groups most likely to entertain doubts about the reality of the withdrawal.

Al-Hayat reporting in Arabic stresses that the anxiety about the combat troops leaving is especially severe in the northern, disputed city of Kirkuk. Kurds want to add it to their semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan but Arabs and Turkmen are resisting this move. Al-Hayat quotes some Kirkuk officials who plead for the US to make an exception and keep combat troops in the city.

17 Responses

  1. .
    Ir was disappointing to see in the Al-Jazeerah report, at about 1:15, that the Iraqi Police are using phony bomb-detecting equipment at checkpoints to screen cars for bombs.
    .

  2. Iraqis can only see things from where they are, just as Americans can only see things from where they are. Slipping by nearly unnoticed is the commercialization of the American military and the American diplomatic corps. Although the official line is that combat troops are gone, it’s American volunteers who’ve been leaving. Offsetting the shrinking ranks of volunteers who are still in Iraq are the growing numbers of mercenaries. Anybody who doubts that both the USA’s military and its diplomatic corps are commercialized needs to look into the $9 billion that went missing during the war, as well as consider the size of the American embassy. Washington didn’t let these results come about on a whim. It’s the American taxpayer who’s funding this increasing emphasis on grandiosity and profiteering. Small wonder that jobs are disappearing from the private sector here in the USA.

    In Afghanistan, Karzai is cleverer than his Iraqi counterparts. Despite American efforts to portray him as being crazed and corrupt, he has the sense to push back against American commercialization of the war. Washington treats as corrupt any foreign leader who blocks American war profiteering.

  3. The reasoning given by the Iraqis cited has not changed much in three years or so: that the US is a more reliable protector against depredations than the Iraq government. They were saying the same things in 2007, maybe even 2006.

    Mainly Sunnis, but also Tariq Aziz, and the communist mentioned above. Not the Shi’a. (And the Kurds are another matter altogether – their reasoning for the US to stay is different.)

    A lot of it is Sunni distrust of the Shi’a – the kind of thing that Israel and the US tried to stoke up among the Jordanians and Saudis. Sometimes it genuinely seems irrational – ancient histories going back to the Abbasid period, completely without any basis. But the Israelis have not had as much success as they like to pretend: that is my impression.

  4. There are always dozens of reasons, many of them superficially sound and often moral sounding, to avoid going ‘cold turkey’ on some habit of the past. And there are plenty of said “reasons” why we should stay ‘involved’ in Iraq.

    However, I sincerely believe that at a certain point we, the citizens of the US, are going to have to come face to face with some very unpleasant conundrums. Two overall paths will present themselves: maintain (or, try to, is perhaps more like it) the status quo of the post WWII period. Or, fundamentally alter our behavior and strategy.

    In the mean time we will keep discovering numerous reasons, and numerous textual gymnastics, to describe why maintaining the status quo is not really maintaining the status quo.

    • “The status quo of the post WWII period” is one of the great success stories of the 20th century. American troops no longer occupy any part of Europe, but their continued presence has coincided with the longest period of peacetime in European history. I don’t hear many calls for their withdrawal from here or there.

  5. The anxiety in the north is premature. That’s because the “combat brigades” are NOT leaving. There are still enough people to Joint patrol with the Peshmerga and the INA. For that matter, that behemoth embassy in the Green Zone isn’t going anywhere either. Rest assured people; the occupation will go on indefinitely. Uncle Sam never walks away from equity.

  6. Iraqis and Afghans have never had trouble fighting effectively. Can some one ‘splain to me why U.S. trainers are still needed after all these years? (Rhetorical Q.)

    • eCAHNomics,

      Don’t even know where to start with that. Iraq has been ruled by foreign powers since the Mongols invaded in the 1200s. The British Indian Army [with mostly Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi NCOs and officers] started building up the Iraqi Army in the 1920s from scratch. Large numbers of British advisors remained in Iraq until 1968. In 1959, India sent large numbers of advisors to Iraq. India use to keep 15 thousand troops in Iraq at a time for decades to build up the Iraqi Security Forces and provide combat enablers. Many Russian, French and Pakistani troops were in Iraq for the same purpose.

      Remember the large role Pakistani advisors to the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Air Force played in the 1967 and 1973 wars between Iraq and Israel?

      In 1990, many tens of thousands of international advisors and combat enablers left Iraq to punish Saddam for invading Kuwait. The Iraqi Army fell apart within days in 1991 without international advisors and combat enablers to toughen their ranks. The Iraqi resistance nearly overran 14 out of 18 Iraqi provinces in the great Iraqi civil war of 1991.

      Iraq’s army largely hated Saddam, regarding him as evil and illegitimate, and were disloyal to their chain of command. This is another reason for the poor performance of the Iraqi Army 1991-2003.

      Many Iraqis have said [some to me directly] that the new Iraqi Army is better quality than the old Iraqi army [especially the 1991-2003 unmentored Iraqi Army.] They are correct to say so.

      eCAHNomics, please keep in mind that the new Iraqi Army is better quality than the Saddam Iraqi Army when you bash the new Iraqi Army. Of course you are right that the new Iraqi Army has to get a lot better. But you can’t expect Iraq to change a millenia of history overnight.

  7. “Liz Sly of the LAT in Baghdad says that many Iraqis have misgivings about the timing of the US withdrawal and fear a descent into chaos….”

    Yes, that has been repeated frequently for seven years.

    When the British left India after 100 years of occupation there was chaos.

    There is no elegant way to end a takeover.

  8. Just read in the Wall Street Journal that the “State Department said it will double the number of private security contractors it uses in Iraq as U.S. troops leave”

    Wondering what the numbers of private contractors are now? And what doubling those contractors will add up to.

    The other day Rachel Maddow broadcast live from the Green Zone. Her focus was on one of the tanks forget the name that has been used in Iraq. Felt like I was watching a defense company commercial. She sure did not mention the increase in private security contractors in Iraq. And she certainly did not mention the hundreds of thousands of dead and injured Iraqi people who we are rolling over as our troops leave Iraq. Not a whisper about any of this by that so called progressive Rachel Maddow. Silence. Instead we heard a defense equipment commercial
    ——————————————————————-

    another mention in the Wall street Journal this morning that the U.S. will be giving Pakistan 150 million instead of 90 million due to the victims of the flooding. Why does this number sound so small . Is that 3 billion that we give Israel every year? And what does it cost to make one drone that is sent to kill alleged terrorist in Pakistan and kills innnocent civilains cost the American taxpayer.

    150 millions sounds like chump change

  9. To think that someone would be interested in what the Iraqi people are feeling about this withdrawal? Wondering what the Iraqi people will be feeling about the increase in private security forces in Iraq?

    Rachel Maddow sure did not ask any Iraqi people about what they were feeling. She just focused on what kind of tanks American forces had been using. What was up with that?

    Wondering when Rachel, Keith or any of the other MSNBC talking heads will invite you on their programs Prof Cole. Rachel has even repeated the “Iran wants to wipe Israel off the map” hooey.

  10. Kathleen :

    Just read in the Wall Street Journal that the “State Department said it will double the number of private security contractors it uses in Iraq as U.S. troops leave”

    This is shameful duplicity but no surprise any longer since this is foreign policy under President Obama. We did not even mention General Petraeus promising that we will not be leaving Afghanistan or mention our bombing Pakistan even during the floods as Amy Goodman mentioned.

  11. It seems that your commenters don’t believe that the US is going to withdraw. It might be a good moment to explain why it is that the US is withdrawing.

  12. alexno says:
    “It seems that your commenters don’t believe that the US is going to withdraw. It might be a good moment to explain why it is that the US is withdrawing.”

    That is because they aren’t withdrawing. Troops are being reclassified as non-combat troops, trainers, advisors etc. More private contractors (Private Mercenary Armies) are being hired under the aegis of the State Dept. , CIA etc. (replacing the so-called withdrawing troops).

    We will be there forever (see Korea, Germany, Japan et al).

    Window dressing and propaganda are all I see. Oh and that oil in the gulf, it magically disappeared just like all those troops.

  13. It seems to me that you can always find somebody that agree with your point of view and/or make him answer towards it. This reminds me when journalists were able to find Germans who were against unification … enough said.

  14. So it would seem that various groups in Iraq have both National Pride and National Misgivings about the supposed withdrawal of US forces from “combat” in that land area. And are thinking very hard about whether defensive or offensive behaviors toward their neighbors are most likely to improve their positions in Whatever Comes Next. I wonder about the feelings of people in that place called “Vietnam,” and the highlands of Laos, and Plain of Jars in Cambodia, in, say, 1969-70, as the Same Imperial War Machine, having spilled blood and treasure in similarly copious amounts, started the “Vietnamization” drawdown and marched pridefully off to the next Asymmetric Mission:Impossible.

    Seems to me that politics in the reification shorthanded as “Iraq” are kind of where they may be in a few years in Our Own Formerly Great Nation Under Our Version Of God — they just accept the realities of tribalism a little easier, have already torn up, blown up and burned the social contract, and are now re-negotiating it, and doing that in an environment where everybody has guns and leftover munitions to make Jihadicide vests and IEDs out of, and has gotten long since past the reluctance to murder and battle that we namby-pamby, tough-talking people living within the porous US borders still suffer from.

    Professor, you keep a lot of the various pieces of the jigsaw-puzzle clearly in mind, and the relations between them, and provide informed judgments on the relative correctness of the “positions” and “policies” and on-the-ground “actual as opposed to PR-spun behaviors” of the many players. And you have justifications for the US and its nimbus of “coalition partners” doing what has been done so far. But does the deeper mental processing point to ways to try to nudge the Enormous Edifice Of Perpetual War And Other Forms Of Apparently Uncontrollable Consumption And Waste toward a broader stand-down, and onto a path that takes us all more in the direction of stability and sustainability, and some diminution of those touchy sensitivities, fractious and factious “loyalties” and greeds that are working overtime to direct the whole shootin’ match right over the cliff?

    I ask, because my second grandson was just born, and I wonder if his destiny is to be a collateral-damage “soft target,” cannon fodder, or worse yet, the last human on earth, armed to the teeth, looking around at all he has destroyed and pausing to say, “Huh! I think I won!”.

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