By Hamdi Malik for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Despite tough talk, US unlikely to take on Iranian forces in Iraq
US President Donald Trump and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi have spoken over the phone about the Iranian threat in the region, according to a White House statement issued Feb. 10.
On Feb. 1, Trump tweeted, “Iran is rapidly taking over more and more of Iraq.” Iranian influence in Iraq has risen since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, and especially after the withdrawal of the last US troops at the end of 2011.
Since the new US administration took office on Jan. 20, it has adopted a strict stance toward Iran. As a result, disputes between the two countries have increased.
In response to Iran’s ballistic missile test and following the Iran-backed Houthis’ targeting of a Saudi warship off the Yemeni coast, former US National Security Adviser Michael Flynn officially warned Iran on Feb. 1 and condemned its activities that he said “undermine security, prosperity and stability … in the Middle East.”
On Feb. 4, Secretary of Defense James Mattis described Iran as “the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.” Vice President Mike Pence echoed Mattis in his speech at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 18.
In response to the US statements, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Feb. 3, “Iran is unmoved by these threats.” Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Commander Gen. Hussein Salami said on Feb. 2, “Our missiles, warships and launchers will increase by the day.”
The commander of the IRGC Ground Forces Brig. Gen. Mohammad Pakpour threatened the United States on Feb. 22 with “a painful slap in the face if it makes a faux pas.” Press reports noted that the United States is taking steps in the region to form an anti-Iranian military alliance including Arab states and sharing intelligence with Israel.