With 300 US Troops Headed to Iraq, Shiite Cleric Threatens US Forces
The situation in Iraq is still deteriorating and it has left many in the government and news media panicked about what to do next. President Obama announced late last week that in addition to the approximately 270 troops going to shore up the U.S. Embassy’s defense, he is sending an additional 300 “military advisers” to, according to POLITICO, “be prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when the situation on the ground requires it.”
The President reassured the press that American forces will not be committed in large numbers to Iraq nor will they “be fighting in Iraq again.” This statement, most likely, is wholly political. While the Obama Administration certainly does not possess the political capital to re-launch the Iraq War, to suggest that these 300 special forces troops will be sitting around and tossing out advice is simply naïve.
While the mission will most likely be intelligence-related – such as giving officials in Washington a clear picture of the situation on-the-ground and how, if at all, U.S. airstrikes might help – they will be receiving combat pay and the likelihood of them encountering ISIS militants grows as their army seizes more and more territory in Iraq.
Also, because despite claims to the contrary this is very much a conflict about religion, any U.S. military servicemembers will not even be able to trust all of those on their side. During the Iraq War, U.S. forces often clashed with both Shiite and Sunni militias during their time there. These fighters, who will now be fighting against ISIS, still see the U.S. as the enemy.
According to Sky News, a Shiite Cleric with close ties to Muqtada al-Sadr, said in a sermon that Shiite militias “will be ready” if the U.S. returns. Thus, the true dilemma of whether or not the U.S. should intervene reveals itself: there is no “good” side. The ISIS militants are bad, yes, but those rallying to support the Sunni Iraqi government are simply militants prone to terrorism on the other side of the Sunni/Shia divide.
Yet, even though this conflict was inevitable from the moment U.S. forces took Baghdad in 2003, there is no denying that this particular situation has arisen because of the war. While we could debate the degrees forever, the U.S. does bear some responsibility for the current situation in Iraq.
It is a problem with no easy answer, so what is most concerning about the entire situation is if hyper-polarized American politics is even capable of answering it.