After the attack on Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, thousands gather this Friday in Baghdad to protest the United States’ military presence. Some gather in defiance of the United States and its recent actions in Iraq, whereas others simply have grown tired of their home being used as a constant battlefield.
Protests appear to be a peaceful display of nationalism and a call for self-determination. Iraqi civilians are yearning to decide their fate now and not later. There is no question as to whether the people of Iraq should determine their own future, but rather the question remains of how to build such a future.
The United States and its interventions in the middle east have long been criticized, although their abrupt removal would surely destabilize the region. The influence of Iran would dramatically increase and escalate further violence if the US were to withdraw personnel. We need only look at recent history when the United States pulled out of most of northern Syria leaving the Kurdish fighters to fend for themselves. What followed was a massive assault on Kurdish strongholds by Turkey driven by political tensions already existing within their borders.
In the case of Iraq, we are well aware that Qassem Soleimani coordinated and aided Shia militias in Iraq in order to further Iran’s sphere of influence. Without the United States as a balance between the Shia and the minority Sunni, a power struggle would ensue. Likely, the United States would further enter into a deeper proxy war with Iran and entrench itself further.
What is the answer?
It seems like if the US leaves Iraq, the area will destabilize, but if the US stays in Iraq, tensions may further build to a breaking point.
It’s a Catch-22!