A prominent Iraqi opposition MP has warned that Washington lawmakers have proposed sending 100,000 troops from the US, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf States to Iraq to fight the jihadists, whether Baghdad approves or not; however, analysts suggest that such a deployment would spark an all-out sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites.
Writing on her Facebook page, Fatlawi said that she had learned from reliable sources that US Senator John McCain recently told Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi and a number of senior cabinet and military officials that the US had made a decision to deploy “a hundred thousand foreign troops, including 90,000 from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Jordan, and 10,000 troops from America…in western regions of Iraq.”
Fatlawi noted further that during the course of the meeting, held in Baghdad on November 27, Prime Minister Abadi had attempted to protest the plan, but was told that “the decision has already been taken.”
McCain and fellow Republican hawk Senator Lindsey Graham have been calling for a tripling of the number of US troops in Iraq (presently estimated at about 3,600) to 10,000. During their joint visit to Baghdad in November, Graham said that American forces could provide logistical support to contingents from other Sunni countries in the region, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
“The region is ready to fight,” Graham said. “The region hates ISIL –they are coming for Sunni Arab nations. Turkey hates ISIL. [Furthermore] the entire region wants Assad gone. So there is an opportunity here with some American leadership to do two things: to hit ISIL before we get hit at home and push Assad out.”
The 2016 Republican presidential candidate emphasized that “Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey –they have regional armies and they would go into the fight if we put [the removal of] Assad on the table. Most of the fight will be done by the region. They will pay for this war.”
Commenting on the Iraqi lawmaker’s announcement, and the Republican lawmakers’ comments, Elena Suponina, Middle East expert and Director of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, told the Russian newspaper Svobodnaya Pressa that the information may be hearsay, but could also be a cue, “probing the [response to] prospects of a ground operation in Syria and Iraq.”
“Proposals to send in ground troops are heard more and more often from among experts in Europe and the US, including among military leaders in the US,” the expert noted.
For now, she added, proposals focus “on carrying out such an operation in Syria. But we cannot exclude the possibility that it will affect neighboring Iraq as well. I think that in the end, the Western countries’ strategy will depend not on the Kurds, who cause severe irritation to countries like Turkey, but on their own troops. This seems especially likely once Obama is out of office. The US have already sent special forces and advisors to Syria, and in Iraq, they already have several thousand troops.”
“As far as the participation of troops from the Persian Gulf,” Suponina noted, “I have serious doubts. They do not even have enough strength to fight the Huthis in Yemen. Saudi Arabia began a war in Yemen, but does not know how to finish it, or to convince anyone that it has been at least a qualified success.”
For his part, Semyen Bagdasarov, the Director of the Russian Center for the Study of the Middle East and Central Asia, is convinced that the deployment of tens of thousands of foreign Sunni troops to Iraq would result in a sectarian war “eclipsing all the previous ones.” If deployment goes ahead, the analyst suggests, “the Arabs will try to fill the vacuum formed after removing the so-called caliphate in Iraq –that is, to attempt to create a Sunni state in northern Iraq. If the Americans really want to plunge the entire Middle East into chaos, they can do this, but I do not believe it will come to that.”
In any case, military expert Anatoly Nesmiyan notes that “moving in a 100,000-strong force without serious preparation is impossible. With current technology, such transfers cannot be hidden. If a serious preparation of infrastructure occurs, it will be noticeable for one to one-and-a-half months before the actual intervention takes place. So for now, the words of the Iraqi parliamentarian remain just that –words.”