US To Share Military Base With ‘An Enemy That We Were Fighting Ten Years Ago’

Erica Wenig | Contributor

The U.S. shares a military base with Iran-backed militias in Iraq’s western Anbar province, a controversial move in the war against the Islamic State.

American soldiers and Shiite militias use Taqqadum military base, according to two senior officials who spoke with Bloomberg. President Barack Obama announced the U.S. will send 450 more military advisers to Taqqadum to train Sunni tribesmen recently.

Sharing the base is viewed by some observers as “siding with an enemy that we were fighting ten years ago,” says Army Maj. Mike Lyons (Ret.), a military analyst.

U.S. soldiers were targeted by some of the same Iran-backed forces during the war in Iraq. “It’s an insult to the families of the American soldiers that were wounded and killed in battles in which the Shia militias were the enemy,” Republican Senator John McCain told Bloomberg.

One question is whether or not the military will “put its foot down,” says Lyons. Other issues concern what will happen if Iran-backed militias get out of control, attacking Americans or taking them hostage.

“This is an unfortunate outcome of having a strategy to support the Iraqi government almost blindly,” said Lyons. The U.S. backs Baghdad in the war against the Islamic State, but Iraq’s Shiite-led government is largely beholden to neighboring Iran.

“We’re letting the Iraqis lead,” said Lyons. And the analyst doesn’t expect U.S. strategy to change under Obama. “From a foreign policy perspective, he’s just holding on for dear life.”

Yet the administration is focused on reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran, and this is perceived as having prevented the U.S. from taking a hardline stance against Iran-backed forces in Iraq or Syria.

From a legacy perspective, Obama sees it as a moment akin to President Richard Nixon visiting China, says Lyons.

Ali Khedery, who worked as a U.S. official in Iraq from 2003-2009, made the same comparison in an interview with Business Insider. “Obama, because of the dramatic failures in every meaningful other part of his foreign policy, views the Iran deal as his ‘Nixon goes to China moment,’ his big legacy item,” said Khedery.

If an agreement is reached by the June 30 deadline, Iran agreeing to limit its nuclear capabilities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, it will unfreeze $150 billion of the country’s offshore assets, enabling Iran to further expand its military presence across the Middle East.

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