America Shrinks Presence in Iraq, Iran Celebrates

The Islamic Republic continues to push toward Jerusalem.
From the October 2020 Watch Jerusalem Print Edition

In September, the United States announced it would withdraw a further 2,200 troops from Iraq before Election Day on November 3. While this undoubtedly pleased many Americans, it also pleased Iran, the region’s most dangerous nation.

At the height of the Iraq War, America had approximately 170,000 troops stationed in the war-torn country. Now, the U.S will be left with a meager force of only 3,000 troops there—less than the number of troops stationed in Spain. Given America’s recent withdrawal from more than a dozen military bases and posts in Iraq, and its withdrawal of all but 600 troops in nearby Syria, more reductions are inevitable.

On Dec. 26, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump made his first visit to Iraq since his election and promised that he had no intention of abandoning the base or withdrawing the 5,200 troops stationed in the country. Since then, however, Iran’s proxies have relentlessly launched missile salvos at Iraqi bases housing American troops, even going as far as besieging the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone.

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Gaining control of Iraq has been a critical part of Iran’s foreign policy since the 1980s. During the Iran-Iraq War, the Islamic Republic’s military maintained that “the path to Jerusalem runs through Karbala,” a Shiite holy place south of Baghdad. So far, the only force preventing Iran from achieving this goal has been the U.S. military. And now it’s leaving.

America’s withdrawal from more than half a dozen military bases and posts in Iraq and its consistent reduction of troops in the region are a dangerous trend. The more evident it is that America wants no part in the region’s future, the more emboldened Iran will become.

In his speech announcing the drawdown, U.S. Gen. Frank McKenzie said that America decided to withdraw troops because it had “confidence in the Iraqi Security Forces’ increased ability to operate independently” and to continue “rooting out the final remnants” of the Islamic State. In other words, America’s leadership believes that Iraq’s military is now capable of dealing with Iran itself. If this were true, why is Iran celebrating?

Iran’s Tasnim News Agency celebrated the troop withdrawal, reporting that the U.S. “has failed to achieve the goals in the policies pursued under the pretext of the 9/11 attacks.” Jerusalem Post Middle East expert Seth Frantzman wrote: “In some ways, this is a result of the U.S. handing over more than a half-dozen posts to Iraqi troops as the war on [the Islamic State] winds down. However, Iranian-backed militias have been targeting U.S. forces in Iraq over the past year, firing rockets almost daily and seeking to bomb trucks that supply U.S. forces. Iran would view this as a win …” (September 9).

While the Islamic State may have been largely defeated, Iraq continues to face more terrorism and a much bigger threat. The Islamic Republic of Iran is 10 times deadlier than the Islamic State, and it is being given free rein in Iraq.

This is an event Watch Jerusalem editor in chief Gerald Flurry has been warning about. In November 2017, he warned: “America is celebrating after helping to drive the Islamic State out of Iraq and Syria. But it should not be celebrating. The reality of the situation is being dismissed: The United States has just suffered its greatest defeat ever in the Middle East! As shocking as that statement may sound, I can prove it to you. America may have helped drive the Islamic State out of Iraq and Syria—but now America is about to be driven out of Iraq and Syria by Iran! We are about to see a vicious turnaround.”

This forecast, made nearly three years ago, is practically fulfilled. Mr. Flurry continued, “Iran has tens of thousands of troops in Iraq and Syria, and its presence is growing. The U.S. has about 5,000 troops, and there is great pressure within America to reduce even that.” Since Mr. Flurry wrote that article, the Iran-backed troops—Iraqi Shiite militias—have either integrated into the Iraqi military, become an official branch of the Iraqi Security Forces, or run for parliament in the May 2018 elections.

The reality is, the Iraqi Security Forces that America believes will create stability in Iraq are partly composed of Iran-backed terrorists! The Fatah Alliance political party is also filled with members loyal to Iran, and it won the second-largest number of seats in the Iraqi parliament. America has effectively handed control of Iraq to Iran!

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Right now, there is a lot of positive sentiment around Israel’s peace deals with the Gulf states, which were brokered by the Trump administration. Many hope this new Israel-Gulf state axis will provide a bulwark against Iran. This might happen, but it will be temporary. The momentum, especially in the massive and strategically crucial nation of Iraq, is clearly in Iran’s favor—and America’s rapid retreat only serves Tehran’s interests and makes it more dangerous.

We have pointed repeatedly to the prophecy in Daniel 11:40, which describes how Iran will initiate a tremendous clash in the Middle East. America’s withdrawal will help fulfill this prophecy. This worrying trend brings to mind another prophecy, this in Leviticus 26:19-20. God says, “And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass. And your strength shall be spent in vain …”

America is clearly the world’s strongest nation, and under President Trump it has accomplished some impressive feats. But the reality is, it is a dying superpower. Its will has been broken and its strength is being “spent in vain.” This terrible and sad trend will have major consequences for the Jewish state.