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US forces are unlikely to leave Iraq anytime soon

US troops can be seen with US and Iraqi flags [File photo]
US troops can be seen with US and Iraqi flags [File photo]

Just days after the US drone attack that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi announced that he had asked Washington to remove its troops from the country. Abdul-Mahdi said that he had asked US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “to send a delegation to Iraq to put a mechanism [in place] for implementing the Iraqi parliament decision to safely withdraw troops from Iraq.”

The Prime Minister cited several reasons for this, including Iraq’s keenness to keep the best possible relations with its neighbours and friends, as well as to protect foreign representatives and interests in the country. He also reiterated that this is to protest against the US unilateral moves and operations that contradict agreements between the two sides.

It is both logical and legal to ask a foreign power to leave, not least when the power in question is unethical and has been occupying and destroying the country and its population for almost two decades, as well as stealing its natural resources under the fake slogan of democratisation. The US will certainly leave Iraq one day, but will this be soon?

READ: Iraq officially asks US to initiate troop withdrawal

To get an answer to this, we have to look at the real reasons why the US invaded and occupied Iraq. The US claimed that it would defeat the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, destroy its alleged weapons of mass destruction, eliminate Al-Qaeda groups and democratise the country. At the same time, America claimed that Iraq “harboured and supported terrorists, committed outrageous human rights abuses and defied the just demands of the United Nations and the world.” However, Kofi Annan, who was the UN Secretary-General when the US invaded Iraq, told the BBC in 2004, “I have indicated it [the war] was not in conformity with the UN charter… it was illegal.” This suggests that the US was lying when it claimed to want to get Iraq to comply with UN and world demands.

Annan only told the world that the US was lying before, during and after the invasion, but he did not give the real reasons for what turned into a permanent occupation; there are still more than 6,000 US troops and 12 military bases in Iraq. The main reason for the US invasion of Iraq was to steal its oil. There is plenty of evidence for this.

Consider, for example, what former US Senator for Nebraska and the 24th US Secretary of Defence, Chuck Hagel, said: “People say we’re not fighting for oil. Of course, we are. They talk about America’s national interest. What the hell do you think they’re talking about? We’re not there for figs.”

READ: Iraq in talks to purchase Russia missile defence systems 

Alan Greenspan, who served as chairman of the US Federal Reserve for almost two decades, recognised that the war was largely about oil. “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil,” he wrote in his memoir.

John Abizaid, who was the commander of the US Central Command during the Iraqi invasion, reiterated that the dynamics in the Middle East, particularly the war in Iraq, are closely tied to oil. “Of course, it’s about oil, we can’t really deny that,” he said. He gave details about how the US deals with Middle East resources: “We’ve treated the Arab world as a collection of big gas stations. Our message to them is: Guys, keep your pumps open, prices low, be nice to the Israelis and you can do whatever you want out back.” He even refuted the claims about fighting terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Osama and 9/11 is the distilled essence that represents everything going on out back,” he reiterated.

Marking one decade of the American invasion of Iraq, Antonia Juhasz explained to CNN how the war in Iraq was about oil. “For the first time in about 30 years,” she said, “Western oil companies are exploring for and producing oil in Iraq from some of the world’s largest oil fields and reaping enormous profit.” She argued that, “These outcomes were by design, the result of a decade of US government and oil company pressure,” citing Kenneth Derr, a former CEO of Chevron, saying in 1998: “Iraq possesses huge reserves of oil and gas-reserves I’d love Chevron to have access to.” Juhasz said that Chevron today has this access.

READ: US threatens to quash Iraq’s economy if its forces are expelled

Iraq’s oil reserves stand at about 300 billion barrels, meaning that the country “has roughly a quarter of all of the world’s oil.” It is unlikely, therefore, that the US will leave Iraq anytime soon.

In response to Abdul-Mahdi’s call, the US replied immediately that it “does not intend to withdraw troops from Iraq, despite requests from that country’s leadership to establish a mechanism to do so.” It even seems that the Iraqi request was not serious; former US Secretary of State John Kerry wrote to the New York Times and said that the, “Iraqi Parliament approved a largely symbolic resolution to expel American troops.”

The goals of the US occupation of Iraq have always been clear: oust the ruler, install a friendly regime and continue stealing oil. In the meantime, blood will continue to be spilled, freedom will be suppressed and the people will be kept in poverty, while the country is torn apart so that it is unable to stand up against the occupation.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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