The planned $600 million consulate in the Kurdish-Iraqi city of Erbil. Image: DoD
U.S. influence in Iraq is waning, Islamic State is by no means defeated
After the war against the Hussein regime, the U.S. was apparently confident of playing a central role in Iraq, despite the high level of resistance from Sunni fighters and terrorists, supported by numerous police, military, and intelligence officers of the Hussein regime who were released to clean up the mess. An expression of this was the construction of the world’s largest and most expensive U.S. embassy in Baghdad to date – also "Palace of George W." called – , albeit in the highly secured Green Zone. Started as early as 2004, after Bush’s optimistic declaration of victory. The Bush administration had spent $1.3 billion on the fortress complex on a site of more than 40 acres, or 400.000 square meters in the fortress, Congress eliminated half of it, but the cost increased to at least 750 million.
At the height of U.S. involvement in Iraq, shortly before the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops in 2011, up to 16.000 employees in the complex, which is presented as an American island in a gated community with high-security entrances and 38 buildings with walls up to 3 meters thick: two rough office buildings, six bomb-damaged apartment buildings with 100 apartments each, a shopping mall, a swimming pool, a gymnasium, a soccer field and tennis courts – with lots of security precautions and, of course, bulletproof glass all around, which is what you need to stay alive and fit in a bubble. To be independent of auben, there is its own power generation plant, wells and sewage systems (The Mega Embassy in Enemy Territory). Now to be 5.500 people work in the embassy. For fiscal year 2012, more than $3 billion was budgeted as an operating cost.
Although the Americans have returned to Iraq with the military in the fight against the Islamic State, not only the Shiite militias, but also the Iranian-affiliated politicians and parts of the Shiite majority do not want the Americans in the country after the liberation of Mosul. Last year, parliament demanded that the Iraqi government set a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops, particularly American troops. Iraqi human rights groups and parties want to charge the U.S. with killing hundreds of civilians in the fight against IS.
Signal for the Kurds
According to media reports, in addition to the Habbaniya base near Ramadi and the Ain al-Assad base near al-Baghdadi in Anbar province, the U.S. wants to establish a third base on the Syrian border along the Euphrates River. In addition, there are American bases in Balad (Salahuddin), in Qayyara near Mosul and in Erbil.
In Erbil, the capital of the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan, which has long been a partner of the U.S. and is so far much safer than mainly the Sunni parts of Iraq, the presence is likely to be strengthened in compensation to Baghdad and in view of the territory controlled by the Syrian Kurds in Syria. This is documented by the new consulate general building in Erbil – the world’s largest U.S. consulate – on a footprint of 200.000 square meters, enclosed by a wall and protected by Marines, while the consulate in Basra may be closed. Approved by the U.S. Department of Defense in June 2018 for over $400 million, the total cost is expected to be $600 million.
U.S. Ambassador Siliman ared that the construction shows that the U.S. continues to stand by the Kurds. Even if relations with the central government deteriorate – a new coalition government seems to be emerging, bringing together al-Abadi’s Nasr party with Muktatda as-Sadr’s Sairoon coalition and Allawi’s al-Wataniya coalition – a presence in Erbil secures the American foothold in Iraq. It is still completely unclear how Iraq, under the old or a new central government, will respond to U.S. sanctions against Iran. The sanctions will be accepted, al-Abadi said, but they will not be supported.
The Islamic State has not been defeated in Syria or Iraq
The situation in Iraq is coming to a head again, after the Islamic State has intensified its underground attacks, ambushes and kidnappings, especially in Diyala, Kirkuk and Salahuddin. IS leader al-Baghdadi also reportedly re-entered Iraq while one of his sons was killed in Homs, Syria, according to Amaq. But once again the rumor is spreading that al-Baghdadi is already dead, that the Iraqi air force killed him in June during an attack in Syria. The U.S. Embassy has published a warning not to leave the Green Zone and the consulate in Basra. IS and Shiite militias threaten attacks.
Apparently, Izzat Ibrahim Al-Douri, the former secretary general of the Iraqi Baath party, military commander and deputy of Saddam Hussein, is also still alive and is said to have helped organize the resistance against the U.S. and also cooperated with Baath militias the IS. It was amed that the IS could not have become so strong without the help of Hussein’s supporters. On 8. August Al-Douri condemned Iran and the U.S. Iraq had previously protected the Arab world from Iran until the U.S. invaded the "modern civilian state" destroyed by the Baath Party.
According to a Pentagon report to Congress, Iraq is expected to continue to see the 17.000 IS fighters active mainly on the green border between Kurdistan and the area held by the central government. There are more than two million internally displaced persons, and there is not enough money for reconstruction. IS has not disappeared in Syria either. He controls 5 percent of the territory and has more than 14 percent of the country.000 fighters, including up to 6000 in northeastern Syria. This is much more than the 1000-2000 IS fighters that the Pentagon was talking about before. Fighting between the U.S.-backed SDF/YPG militias and IS is taking place primarily in the region around Abu Kamal on the border with Iraq, but also around Al-Tanf.
Washington has reached an agreement with Turkey for the SDF to withdraw from Manbij east of the Euphrates River. Since the Kurds can no longer rely entirely on U.S. support, they have entered into negotiations with the Syrian government, perhaps at the request of the United States. But with the escalation of the conflict between Trump and Erdogan, anything is possible here.