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US Bases Welcomed in Iraq | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Tribal fighters take part in a military training to prepare for fighting against Islamic State militants, at the Ain al-Assad military base in Anbar province November 15, 2014. Picture taken November 15, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

Baghdad – Six years after the last US soldier retreated from Iraq, Sunnis have themselves forced to accept the re-entrance of the US troops after they have been one of the parties strongly opposing the occupation.

Observers believe that the talk about “US Bases” is common to most political arenas, but many politicians avoid speaking of it publically. Yet, some public and official Sunni Iraqi parties believe that most of the problems encountered by Sunnis after the rise of ISIS in June 2014 is linked some way or another to the incidents at the end of 2011.

Back then, US troops completed its withdrawal and Prime Minister at the time Nouri al-Maliki was in charge of the security. He launched series of accusatory campaigns against Sunni leaders like Tarek al-Hashimi and Rafei al-Issawi. The situation escalated to protests in al-Anbar and several other cities but it all ended with ISIS’ emergence and occupation of the governorate and several other cities.

The acceptance of US bases also includes a number of Kurds and even Shiite parties, other than the Sadrist Movement and parties linked with Iran.

Vice Sec-Gen of Iraqi Islamic Party Bahauddin Naqshband believes that the ISIS era had deeply changed the Sunni component. He told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that accepting a US presence means Sunnis have seen that the current situation requires a strong force and no one can contain the situations between internal parties and political groups other than a solid power capable of control the struggles.

Naqshband stated that the notion of military troops has changed, and so did the concept of patriotic sovereignty. He believes that there is no such thing as full sovereignty and all states have an effect on one another, in addition to the fact that US bases are present in about 90 states.

Naqshband pointed out the turbulent phase began with the withdrawal of US troops in 2011. Before that, things were fine and al-Qaeda presence ended, he added.

Naqshband admitted that there had been a drastic change in positions. While Shiites wanted a federal system and supported foreign troops in Iraq, Sunnis rejected that. He, however, considers that Shiites adopted different positions now because they want “the whole cake and eat it too.”

Recent statements of vice president Maliki calling for the formation of government of the majority are mere attempts to control powers in the country, according to Naqshband. He thinks that from the outside, it seems as though Maliki wants to form a government of political majority, but in reality it will become a sectarian majority given that Shiites have the majority in the parliament.

“Maliki is acting like Saddam in that sense, meaning he will choose the weakest Sunni party and make it part of the government to say it represents all Sunni,” Naqshband added.

For his part, MP of the Kurdistan Coalition (KC) Abdul Bari Zibari views the presence of a US-led coalition in Iraq as a positive thing. He told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the withdrawal of US troops during the presidency of former President Barack Obama drove the country into difficult situations and “ISIS’ years” are evidence to that.

Zibari believes that the Iraqi government was greatly mistaken when it strongly supported the withdrawal, and according to him, it is very important for the coalition and US troops to be in the country whether for training, assistance, or intelligence exchange.

MP Zibari said he relies on US President Donald Trump to enhance security in Iraq and he is convinced that: “Peace is achieved by the strong and since the beginning Trump was clear about his commitment to end ISIS.”

Prime Minister of Kurdistan Region Nechervan Barzani expressed Kurdistan’s willingness to host US bases if Washington wants.

Several US military advisors and soldiers are currently in al-Assad base, west of Anbar, Speicher in Saladin, and Qiyyara in Mosul. There are speculations that five new bases will be formed in Iraq, two in the south and one in each of: Erbil, Nineveh and Anbar.