Why did the US invade Iraq

Middle East PolicyIraq: United States in the Dilemma

Actually, the US president wanted to demonstrate strength with air strikes in Iraq. In front of the American embassy in Baghdad, his weakness is evident - especially with regard to Iran, says journalist Daniel Gerlach.

In response to US air strikes against Shiite militias over the weekend, hundreds of protesters broke into Baghdad's Green Zone on Tuesday, December 31, 2019 to storm the US embassy. Several sentry boxes were set on fire (our picture), walls were smeared and incendiary devices were thrown. However, security forces pushed the demonstrators back.

The US blames Iran for the protests because Tehran supports the Shiite militias in Iraq. The leadership in Tehran rejects the accusation. Daniel Gerlach, however, finds the US interpretation plausible. With us, he organized the series of acts of violence in the region into an overall picture and talked about the background.

He reports that a very large number of different political and military groups are active in Iraq. There have also been violent protests against Iran there in the recent past. The Iranian embassy in Baghdad was also attacked with incendiary devices and besieged. Daniel Gerlach has the impression that Iran and its allies want to create a symmetry of the protest movements with the protests in front of the US embassy.

The American side now finds itself in an unfavorable position: on the one hand, it does not want to start a war, especially in the year of the presidential election campaign, on the other hand, it wants to demonstrate strength.

"Those who try to create a dilemma for Americans have succeeded."

A chronology of events:

  • December 27, 2019 Missile attack on Iraqi military base in Kirkuk (one dead US employee, several
    Injured).
  • December 29, 2019 US air strikes on Shiite militia Kata'ib Hezbollah (around 25 dead, around 50 injured).
  • December 31, 2019 As a result of the funeral ceremonies, pro-Iranian militiamen and supporters attempt to storm the US embassy in Baghdad.

The protests in front of the US embassy were triggered by air strikes by the US on facilities of the Shiite militia Kata'ib Hezbollah - also known as the Hezbollah brigades. 25 people died and 50 others were injured. The Iran-backed group has been classified by the US as a terrorist organization since 2009 and is said to be responsible for several attacks on US units in Iraq.

With the air strikes, US President Donald Trump tried to act like the Israeli air force in the region, says Daniel Gerlach. However, Israel has no permanent facilities in Iran's area of ​​influence. The USA, on the other hand, is exposed through its troops in the region, so it is vulnerable. An assessment that the commentator Peter Beinart shares, for example.

"I have the impression that Trump thought he could do it as successfully as the Israelis. But they don't have an embassy in Baghdad."

Iranian groups in Iraq have repeatedly tried to provoke the US armed forces with symbolic needle pricks, says Daniel Gerlach. Last Friday, December 27, 2019, a US employee stationed there was killed and four US soldiers were injured in rocket attacks on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk, northern Iraq. The US Air Force then flew its attacks.

After all: no shots in front of the embassy

At least everyone involved in the attack on the US embassy would have known what an escalation meant and would have kept a relatively cool head for the circumstances, says Daniel Gerlach.

"You have to give the Americans credit for the fact that marines didn't shoot protesters here, that was very, very wise."

On the other hand, Iraqi politicians who demonstrated closeness to the people by participating in the protests would have called their people back.

For jihadists, a war would be just right

The US military immediately relocated around 100 marines from neighboring Kuwait to protect the embassy. On Wednesday they dispatched around 750 paratroopers to the region. Around 5,000 US soldiers are currently stationed in Iraq.

"If Iraqis, Americans and Iranians actually start shooting openly at one another in Iraq, if the war really started there, it would be a disaster for all sides."
Daniel Gerlach, editor-in-chief of Zenith magazine

According to Daniel Gerlach, ISIS, i.e. the jihadists in the country, would most likely benefit from an escalation in Iraq. He heads Zenith magazine, which covers the Middle East, North Africa and the Muslim world. The journalist was still in Iraq in the run-up to Christmas.

US embassy remains closed for the time being

The Iraqi Prime Minister Abdel Mahdi is currently only able to act to a limited extent. After weeks of protests against the government, he submitted his resignation in November and is now only in office.

After the violent protests at the US embassy in Baghdad, there is now a tense calm there. The demonstrators withdrew from the specially secured green zone in the center of the Iraqi capital. The US embassy will remain closed until further notice.