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Unfortunately for Iran, the U.S. withdrawal of combat forces doesn’t mean a significant change in the status quo. President Bush was actually the one to reach an agreement with the Iraqi government in 2008 mandating the withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq’s cities by July 2009 and a total withdrawal by December 31, 2011. The success of the surge has allowed the withdrawal to be safely completed ahead of schedule.
Kenneth Pollack, Director of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy writes that the remaining 50,000 soldiers are simply being renamed to “advisory and assistance brigades” but will still carry out counter-terrorism operations in support of the Iraqi forces when necessary. They will be train and advise the Iraqi security forces and play a secondary role just as they had before the withdrawal.
“It’s more or less what they have been doing since the ‘clear and hold’ operations to take back the country from militias and insurgents ended in 2008,” Pollack wrote.
A senior counterintelligence officer that served two tours in Iraq told FrontPage that “Overall, I believe that Iraq is capable of standing on their own.” General Odierno agrees with him, saying that “They have been doing so well for so long now that we really believe they are beyond that point [of completely collapsing].”
“I think it will be difficult for Iran and Syria to capitalize on our (partial) withdrawal. We won’t withdraw to the point where we cannot take on any problem that the government of Iraq can’t handle,” the source said. He also added that many Iraqis that go to Iran for training to carry out attacks just take Iran’s money and then find other jobs when they return home.
Matthew Degn, a former Senior Policy Advisor to Iraq’s Interior Ministry and Director of the Intelligence Studies Program at American Military University, is less optimistic.
“I imagine the US military pullout will have a great affect on Iranian and Syrian behavior. It will likely be much easier for them to aid those Intelligence agents bent on influencing the Iraqi government, as well as other covert interests already in place within Iraq,” he told FrontPage.
“With the motley collection of private agendas, competing affiliations, and personal vendettas existing among the Iraqi ruling elite handicapping the government from working together, the current regime will likely be quite fertile for cross border/outside interferences.”
The U.S. withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq may not significantly affect the military situation in Iraq, but the political situation is still tenuous. Iran is determined to destabilize Iraq and if not prevent its opponents from coming to power, at least neuter their ability to stand up to the regime. As the U.S. departs Iraq, Iran will try to fill the void.
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