US ground operation in Iraq: PR campaign to curb Russia's influence

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced at the economic forum in Davos that the United States would deploy troops in Iraq to help local forces in the struggle against the Islamic State terrorist group. According to Carter, it goes about the 101st Airborne Division as part of the Second Separate Brigade. Neither the Russian government nor the Foreign Ministry have released specific statements in response. 

Let's invade Iraq again

A week earlier, Carter visited the cantonment of the 101st Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he said that as many as 1,300 marines will go to Iraq, said. They will be stationed in Baghdad and Erbil to train the Iraqi army and Kurdish militia "Peshmerga", who are to move towards Mosul, where the Islamic State is headquartered. 

The Pentagon chief discussed the same subject at the meeting with NATO officials in Paris on 20 January, as well as in an article published in the Politico newspaper.

According to the AP, the first 500 US military men will go to Iraq in February; the rest will go on a mission in late spring. Noteworthy, it was the 101st Division that captured Mosul in an operation against Saddam Hussein's army in 2003. The division was withdrawn from Iraq in late 2006.

Carter also announced the need to take not only Mosul, but also Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State in Syria. Washington sees Russia's successful operation in Syria and fears lest Baghdad should fall into the zone of Moscow's influence.

Damascus, however, responded immediately. Syrian Ambassador to Russia Riad Haddad stressed out that the military intervention in Syria without the approval of Damascus would be regarded as an act of aggression.

The Americans need Raqqa, of course, and they will try to take the Syrian city, but for the time being it goes about a small operation in Iraq.

Who needs US troops in Iraq?

The US president has the right to deploy a contingent, but he must notify Congress about the beginning of the military operation 48 hours after it started. To continue military actions, the president should seek congressional approval within 60 days. The Republican Congress will not give this approval to Obama. The Democrats do not need this "invasion" either. The US withdrew its troops from Iraq in 2011, fulfilling Obama's campaign promise, who called the Iraq war unjust. After ISIL took on the offensive on August 7, 2014, Washington announced the launch of "limited", "humanitarian" air strikes for the protection of ethnic minorities (Kurds) in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The head of the State Duma Committee for International Affairs, Alexei Pushkov, believes that the announcement of the operation in Iraq came as part of the PR campaign to "intercept the initiative in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East." "The ground operation that they have been talking about now is basically a PR operation and a political plan," Pushkov told Russia 1 TV channel. According to him, the plans of such operations are not meant for the general public - they are secret. 

Does Russia welcome US decision to go to Iraq?

The Kremlin has not shown an official reaction to the news from the Pentagon. Most likely, Moscow will not interfere as long as Syria does not appear in the plan. The Russian leadership has repeatedly stated that any military action of this kind must obtain permission from the UN Security Council or be conducted at the request from legitimate governments of Iraq or Syria. 

"Most likely, the Americans will take this idea through the UN Security Council, - Arsen Khizriev, junior researcher at the Center of Asia and the Middle East told Pravda.Ru. - Air strikes of the Western coalition do not show much influence on the situation, so one needs to make new decisions. Therefore, they speak of a possible ground operation.

"They also need to control the Turkish soldiers who entered the Iraqi Kurdistan. It seems to me that the operation will be discussed primarily between US and Turkish officials and the leadership of the Iraqi Kurdistan, rather than with the Iraqi government. Baghdad has little control over the things that happen on the border with Syria," the expert said.

According to Khizriev, Russia will benefit from the US operation in Iraq, as America's presence will restrain Turkey in its actions. At the same time, Russia needs some semblance of stability in the region.

"The interference of the United States and other NATO members directly in the ground operation means that Russia's operation in Syria has been successful, -Alexander Perendzhiev, a military analyst, Associate Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the Russian Economic University told Pravda.Ru. - It also means that the West is embarking on a second military operation against Syria and Assad under the guise of the ground operation in Iraq," he added. 

"US and NATO forces may take some of Syrian territory under control, and we may face the division of the country into two parts - the pro-Russian and the pro-American ones," the expert said. 

Lyuba Lulko


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov