Friday, November 18, 2011

Iraqi General sought extended US military presence, now forced to befriend Iran

On Sunday, the Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Joint Forces, General Babaker Zebari, called for the expansion of military ties between Tehran and Baghdad during a meeting with the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards' ground forces, Gen. Mohammad Pakpouron.

The meeting came in the wake of President Obama's announcement, in October, that all US forces would be withdrawn from Iraq by year's end, and on the heels of the President's failure [and apparent unwillingness] to negotiate a deal with Iraq that would enable a residual US force to remain in the country to help train Iraqi troops and to ensure that Iran does not expand its influence in Iraq and in the country's military affairs.

Question: Did the President's announcement, and his failure to negotiate the aforementioned deal, compel Gen. Zebari to meet with Iranian military leaders?

Apparently, yes.

In August of 2010, the AFP reported as follows:
The Iraqi army will require American support for another decade before it is ready to handle the country's security on its own, Iraq's army chief of staff told AFP on Wednesday.

Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari said Iraq's politicians had to find a way to "FILL THE VOID" after American troops withdraw from the country at the end of next year...

"At this point, the withdrawal (of US forces) is going well, because they are still here," Zebari said.

"But the problem will start after 2011; the politicians must find other ways to FILL THE VOID after 2011, because the army will be fully ready in 2020.

"If I were asked about the withdrawal, I would say to politicians: the US army must stay until the Iraqi army is fully ready in 2020."
Gen. Zebari asserted that a continued US troop presence in Iraq [until 2020, when the Iraqi army would be fully prepared to take over] was absolutely necessary. Moreover, he contended that after 2011, when the US military presence ended, "the problem will start", and then "the politicians must find other ways to FILL THE VOID."

"Fill the void", those are the key words.

In August of 2010, the LA Times - after quoting a US military commander as saying that the Iraqi army will not be able to stand alone by the time U.S. troops go home and that there will have to be some form of continued U.S. military presence beyond 2011 - quoted [the aforementioned] Gen. Zebari as saying:
"If America withdraws its forces and one of the neighboring countries causes problems, then we're going to have a problem."
"Neighboring countries" = Iran

Additionally, Reuters reported last month that a U.S. inspector's report, released on October 30, 2011, quoted Lieutenant General Babakir Zebari as saying that the Iraqi military will not be fully ready to defend Iraq from external threats until 2020 to 2024:
Lieutenant General Babakir Zebari has repeatedly warned that Iraq's security forces, rebuilt after the 2003 invasion that ousted strongman Saddam Hussein, would not be ready for years.

"General Zebari suggested that the MOD (Ministry of Defense) will be unable to execute the full spectrum of external-defense missions until sometime between 2020 and 2024," said the report from the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).

Iraqi leaders have accused neighbors of meddling, and U.S. military officials say Iran arms Shi'ite militias in Iraq.

"While we have no enemies, we also have no real friends," the SIGIR report quoted Zebari as saying of the Iraqi government's relations with its neighbors.
Conclusion: In the wake of President Obama's announcement, last month, that no US military personnel, or residual US force, would remain in Iraq past 2011, it appears that Gen. Zebari and his superiors felt that the only way to fill the "FILL THE VOID" and to protect their country from the menacing Iranian threat was to cozy up to Iran [and its military]. Hence, the meeting on Sunday between Gen. Zebari and the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

Did the President's announcement about a complete withdrawal of US troops, and his failure to negotiate a deal with Iraq that would allow a residual force to remain in the country, compel Gen. Zebari to meet with Iranian military leaders?

Yes.