Iraqi PM: Please, America, don’t send troops back to Iraq

In his first interview with the Western press since his ascension, Iraq’s new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has an important message for the United States: Leave your combat troops at home.

Iraq’s new prime minister says foreign ground troops are neither necessary nor wanted in his country’s fight against the Islamic State group.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also urged the international community to expand the campaign against the extremists to neighboring Syria.

He said the fight against the Islamic State group will be endless unless the militants who control a large swath of land spanning both countries are hit in Syria as well.

Well, that’s interesting.

It is fascinating that al-Abadi, an otherwise obscure Iraqi politician who owes his job to President Barack Obama’s pressure (and Tehran’s consent), would precisely echo the White House’s insistence that American combat troops are not needed to augment flailing and ill-prepared Iraqi Security Forces. His insistence that coalition forces immediately begin putting pressure on ISIS in their Syrian stronghold betrays his suggestion that Iraq along with Kurdish forces can handle ISIS on their own. But I wouldn’t want to imply anything.

It’s also fascinating that the Iraqi PM is not insisting that the United States’ ballooning troop presence in his country (approximately 1,700 U.S. soldiers are now on the ground in Iraq) are unnecessary. That force, which even The New York Times believes is sure to grow in the coming months, is merely protecting American diplomatic and military installations and assets. But I wouldn’t want to imply anything.

It is perhaps the most amazing that al-Abadi did not single out any one nation in particular. The United States has no intention of sending combat troops to fight in Iraq, according to the president. The opposite is the case for Iran, which has already sent soldiers across the border to aid in the defense of the Shiite areas of Iraq. As early as June, Iraqi officials conceded that Iran had been sending advance troops into the country to fight ISIS. That force has almost certainly been augmented in recent weeks.

Terrified at the prospect of giving the Sunni-led militants a permanent foothold inside Iraq, the Shiite government in Tehran is openly providing weapons, intelligence, and military advisors to Baghdad and the array of Shiite militias fighting alongside the beleaguered Iraqi military. Iran denies having combat troops inside Iraq, but a U.S. official familiar with the matter said that Iran has at times had hundreds of ground forces fighting alongside the Iraqi soldiers and militiamen.

One gets the impression that al-Abadi’s comments were intended solely for consumption inside the United States where they will reinforce the position of the U.S. government. The United States has no intention of sending troops to Iraq regardless of the strategic imperatives, and the administration can now say that the government in Baghdad does not want them. The Iraqi government is not, however, complaining about America alone providing air support to Iraqi forces which are now coming under attack in areas just 25 kilometers from the capital.

But I wouldn’t want to imply anything.