US seeks to build additional military base in Iraq’s Anbar
Both the US and Turkiye have used the pretext of fighting ISIS as a way to establish new bases in the war-torn country
By News Desk - May 24 2023

Ain Al-Asad base in Anbar governorate Iraq. (Photo Credit Nasser Nasser AP)

The US army is seeking to build a second military base in Iraq’s western Al-Anbar province, an Iraqi security source revealed to local media outlets, according to Al-Mayadeen.

Washington’s plan will reportedly complement the Ain al-Asad Air Base, the US military’s largest in the country.

The source suggested that the US army has chosen the Al-Jazira area to construct its military bases due to its large oil and gas fields.

Informed Iraqi sources previously revealed that the US forces are not planning to withdraw from Iraq and wish to expand Ain al-Assad base further.

US officials are looking to expand their military presence in Iraq, citing ISIS as their reasoning to stay in Iraq and northeast Syria despite the fact the group has been largely defeated.

An expert on Iraqi security issues cited by Al-Mayadeen had previously pointed out that the continued presence of US troops in Iraq is aimed at supporting Washington’s interests and backing terrorism rather than fighting it.

Iranian officials have repeatedly expressed their desire to expel US troops from Iraq, most notably after US planners assassinated Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in January 2020.

Iran responded to the assassination of Iran’s popular military leader with a powerful missile attack on the Ain Al-Assad base only several days later.

According to Iranian Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, Ain al-Assad base is where planning for the assassination of General Soleimani took place.

The US military took control of Ain al-Assad in 2003 following the Bush administration’s illegal invasion and occupation of the country but withdrew its forces in 2011 when the Obama administration failed to secure a new Status of Forces (SOFA) agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

However, US forces returned to the base under the pretext of training Iraqis to fight ISIS six months after the extremist group invaded and occupied Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in June 2014.

As ISIS threatened to take control of Ramadi in March 2015, US planners rejected Iraqi pleas for airstrikes against the group. They stated that preventing the fall of Ramadi was not a strategic priority, though Anbar’s largest city is just over an hour’s drive from Ain Al-Asad.

The ISIS invasion of Mosul also provided a pretext for Turkiye to establish new bases in Iraq. The Turkish military established a base in the northern Iraqi town of Bashiqa to train members of the Hashd al-Watani, an armed group established by then-Nineveh governor Atheel al-Nujaifi with the alleged aim of liberating Mosul.

However, many Iraqis view Nujaifi as having helped facilitate the fall of Mosul to Nineveh, while Turkiye is widely regarded as having supported ISIS logistically and militarily.

Bashiqa is a Yazidi town in Iraq’s disputed regions, claimed by both the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil.

In 2011, US oil firm Exxon signed contracts with the KRG to exploit oilfields in Bashiqa and other disputed areas, leading Baghdad to claim the contracts were illegal and would contribute to the break up of the country by encouraging Kurdish independence efforts.

In 2013, Turkiye signed contracts with Erbil and Exxon to export oil from the KRG to Turkiye. These exports began in significant volumes after the ISIS capture of Mosul the following June. The confusion resulting from the Iraqi army collapse in Mosul and elsewhere allowed Kurdish Peshmerga forces to capture Kirkuk, the oil-rich city disputed between Baghdad and Erbil.

Most Kurdish oil exported via Turkiye was further exported to Israel after being loaded on tankers at Turkiye’s Ceyhan port.

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