US Strikes Reminded Average Iraqis About Its 'Blatant Violation' of Country's Sovereignty – Analyst

© REUTERS / THAIER AL-SUDANIProtesters and militia fighters gather to condemn air strikes on bases belonging to Hashd al-Shaabi (paramilitary forces), outside the main gate of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq December 31, 2019
Protesters and militia fighters gather to condemn air strikes on bases belonging to Hashd al-Shaabi (paramilitary forces), outside the main gate of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq December 31, 2019 - Sputnik International
Following the US airstrikes against Kata'ib Hezbollah, a group that helped repel Daesh* from Iraq, numerous Iraqis gathered near the American Embassy in Baghdad on 31 December to protest against Washington's actions in the region.

The attack on the US Embassy in Iraq, which nearly resulted in a breach of its perimeter and its entrance being set on fire, forced Washington to rapidly lay out plans to reinforce its military presence in the region and the security detail at the facility. This, however, is unlikely to prevent further attacks on US objects in the country, analysts have pointed out.

According to Fanar Haddad, an Iraq expert at the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore, episodes like the attack on the embassy or on US military bases will continue as long as the US policy towards neighbouring Iran is "stuck" in "maximum pressure" mode and Tehran sticks to its "maximum resistance" strategy. In his opinion, "the danger of escalation will persist" as long as the situation doesn't change.

Abdulaziz Alghashian, a Middle East expert and researcher at Essex University, agreed with his colleague, noting that although the US strikes killed Iraqis and that Iraqis then gathered for protests, the recent events are ultimately the result of the "American-Iranian jostle".

US 'Miscalculated' Its Actions in Iraq

Seyed Mohammad Marandi, a political analyst and professor at Tehran University, disagreed with his colleagues, arguing that as long as the US continues to "behave with impunity" in Iraq and ignores the wishes of its government, which opposed the strikes against Kata'ib Hezbollah, the country's population will continue to protest against Washington's actions and its presence in Iraq. He added that the price that the US pays will only increase with time.

"Americans disrespect the Iraqi government, they disrespect the Iraqi people and then they have the audacity to blame Iran for their problems. Americans are fooling themselves, they are delusional. By scapegoating Iran they are not going to change the situation on the ground", Marandi said.

In Marandi's opinion, the only solution that the White House has to the problem is to withdraw its troops and allow Iraq "to regain its rightful place in the region as a strong and independent country".

Dr Mehran Kamrava, a professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Georgetown University-Qatar, in turn, said that the US "badly misread the situation" and "miscalculated" the consequences of its policies when it made its decision to deliver airstrikes in Iraq. The professor said that the move only "reminded the average Iraqi person" about how the US acts in Iraq and about its "blatant violation of Iraqi sovereignty".

"While in the short run the attack may have demonstrated American military superiority, in the long run it has only further undermined American interest and popularity in Iraq and in many other parts of the region", Kamrava concluded.

Protests Further 'Weakened' Iraqi Government

The US is not the only actor to lose its position in Iraq due to the rise in activity of local militants such as Kata'ib Hezbollah, the analysts pointed out. Dr Mehran Kamrava opined that the attack on the embassy "weakened the central government in Baghdad" and "added legitimacy to the anti-American rhetoric" utilised by many Iraqi militant groups, such as Kata'ib Hezbollah.

Abdulaziz Alghashian, in turn, said that the incident near the embassy showed that the Iraqi government cannot "withstand nor respond to significant security threats" within the country and that Iran is clearly "calling the shots" in Iraq. The Middle East expert believes that the protesters are not "going anywhere soon" and that the embassy risks ending up in a "Benghazi-like situation", referring to the notorious 2012 attack on a US diplomatic compound in Libya that claimed the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador John Christopher Stevens.

"The pro-Iranian protesters will consider this as a symbol of Iraqi liberation from the USA, and will do so explicitly as an act of defiance. In turn, Iran will consider this as a tactical yet implicit victory for it within their ongoing rivalry with the USA", Alghashian said.

However, the expert thinks that Tehran will try to distance itself from the embassy siege in a bid to avoid a US response.

*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia

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