Perhaps the most astounding thing about recent events in the Mid-East is the extent to which outcomes that seem far-fetched one week become reality the next.
This dynamic began back in June when Iran’s most powerful general vowed to “surprise the world” with his next move in Syria. Just weeks later, he was in Moscow (in violation of a UN travel ban) hatching a plan with Putin to launch an all-out invasion on behalf of Assad on the way to forcibly enacting a dramatic shift in the Mid-East balance of power. Before the West had a chance to react, Moscow was establishing an air base at Latakia.
As all of this unfolded we began to suggest that it would be only a matter of time before Russian airstrikes began in Iraq.
The setup, we contended, was just too perfect. Iran controls both the military and politics in the country and so, we speculated that The Kremlin would get a warm welcome if Putin decided to launch an air campaign against ISIS targets across Syria’s eastern border.
Sure enough, Baghdad moved to establish an intelligence cell with Russia, Syria, and Iran in September and when PM Haider al-Abadi said he would welcome Russian airstrikes, it was clear that the US was about to be booted out of the country it “liberated” more than a decade ago.
Subsequently, Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford traveled to Baghdad and gave Abadi an ultimatum: "…it’s either us or the Russians."
Well, despite Dunford’s contention that Abadi promised not to enlist Moscow’s help, just days later Iraq gave Moscow the green light to strike ISIS convoys fleeing Syria.
A desperate Washington then attempted to prove that the US could still be effective at fighting terrorism by sending 30 Delta Force soldiers into battle with the Peshmerga on a prison raid mission in the Northern Iraqi town of Huwija. Conveniently, one American soldier apparently had a GoPro strapped to his helmet and the footage was almost immediately leaked to Western media.
Our contention (and again, this is in no way an attempt to trivialize the death of Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, the first US soldier to die in Iraq since 2011): Washington sent 30 Delta Force spec ops soldiers into a fight the Pentagon knew they would win and then filmed it to prove to Baghdad and any other interested Mid-East governments that the US can fight terrorism just as effectively as the Russians. The video was then used as a pretext for Ash Carter to tell the Senate that the US is now prepared to engage directly on the ground in Iraq and Syria. The US media then proceeded to document a “new” strategy whereby at the very least, Washington is set to send Apache gunships to Iraq to assist Iraqi, Kurdish, and Iran-backed militias in the fight against ISIS.
There are several absurd things about this strategy and we encourage you to read our assessment from Wednesday, but the point here is this: it turns out that after 13 months of ineffective airstrikes and what amounts to nearly 13 years of occupation, Iraq doesn’t want any help from the US.
Here's NBC (because nothing says "humiliation" like the US media reporting that Baghdad has essentially told Washington "don't call us, we'll call you"):
The Iraqi government said Wednesday it didn't ask for — and doesn't need — the "direct action on the ground" promised by the Pentagon.
The revelation came a day after Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the U.S. may carry out more unilateral ground raids — like last week's rescue operation to free hostages — in Iraq to target ISIS militants.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's spokesman told NBC News that any military involvement in the country must be cleared through the Iraqi government just as U.S.-led airstrikes are.
"This is an Iraqi affair and the government did not ask the U.S. Department of Defense to be involved in direct operations," spokesman Sa'ad al-Hadithi told NBC News. "We have enough soldiers on the ground."
Yes, "enough soldiers on the ground." And as we never tire of pointing out, most of those soldiers are either Iranian or Iran-backed, and now that Moscow and Tehran have established a Mid-East military alliance, Iraq no longer has any use for Washington.
So it would appear that one video of a prison raid is far too little, far too late to convince Baghdad not to lean Russian when it comes to routing ISIS. And indeed, there's almost no question that Tehran is feeding Iraqi politicians intelligence that – right or wrong – suggests the US tacitly supports Islamic State in an effort to ensure that the group can continue to serve as a destabilizing force vis-a-vis regimes that are deemed unfriendly to Washington's regional allies. Indeed, one has to wonder whether it's a coincidence that the two countries where ISIS has established itself just happen to be the two countries wherein Iranian influence is the most pronounced.
In any event, Iraq has just told Washington "thanks, but no thanks" just days after giving Moscow the go ahead to conduct bombing runs on ISIS.
The writing is on the wall. The US is being booted out of the Mid-East.