A Tense Relationship: The United States, Iraq and Syria

Aaron Isaac – Anchor Staff

The announcement to withdraw troops from Syria and to keep troops in Iraq to watch Iran has created tensions between the three countries as well as between the intelligence community and President Trump.

In December, Trump announced he would withdraw the 2,000 US troops currently deployed in Syria. The move took some officials by surprise. Central Commander General Joseph Votel confirmed during a Senate hearing that the Pentagon was not notified of the plan beforehand. Votel himself was also “not aware of the specific announcement” to withdraw from Syria before the announcement. Trump cites the defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS) has the reason for the withdrawal, which he reiterated during a State Department meeting on Feb. 6th.

Although ISIS has lost a lot of control over Iraq and Syria since 2015, allies disagree with Trump. The United Kingdom and France, who have troops in Syria, say the presence of ISIS and extremists are still a threat. Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed said it was “premature” to say ISIS was defeated. He cited a threat assessment from the Director of National Intelligence which points to the possibility that ISIS will continue to try to attack the US and undermine the stability of Syria and Iraq.

On Feb. 5th, Trump again surprised officials in and outside the US when during an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Trump said he would keep troops in Iraq to “watch” Iran. According to CNN, Trump’s comment was confusing to the Pentagon because they were unsure if the mission in Iraq was changing. Furthermore, monitoring Iran from Iraq worried some officials, such as Former Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken, who argued that a base in Iraq would further antagonize Iran.

Trump cited concerns of nuclear development as a reason for watching Iran. This comes after Trump withdrew the US from the “disastrous Iran nuclear deal” as Trump called it in May. However, a separate threat assessment in January from the Director of National Intelligence indicates that Iran is in compliance with the deal and has not pursued a nuclear weapon.