Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s announcement of new deployments of US Special Forces into Iraq, despite coming with some talk of limiting operations inside Iraq to those done “at the invitation of” the Iraqi government, appears to have come without even mentioning it to the Iraqi government beforehand.
Prime Minister Hayder Abadi warned that Iraq, as it has insisted repeatedly before, welcomes air support against ISIS but does not need any foreign ground troops, and warned the US to respect Iraqi sovereignty in the matter.
That’s a relatively modest reaction compared to those of some of the more powerful Shi’ite militias involved in the war against ISIS, who say they intend to shift their fight to directly focus on US ground troops if these new deployments are carried out.
Statements came from Qatib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and the Badr Brigade, all of whom noted that they distrust US intentions after the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. The US at times fought various different militias during the occupation.
How serious the Shi’ite militias’ threats are is unclear, as they’ve talked up going after US ground troops after previously announced deployments and so far haven’t, but it does reflect the continuing discomfort in Iraq, both among the government and its allies, for US escalation.
The US has so far gotten away with these escalations by keeping them small, but even this new deployment is coming with officials talking up the idea that this is just the first of many new deployments into the region aimed at combat.