France, Czechs, & Other US Allies Exit Iraq Over COVID-19 Fears

ZeroHedge

The United States has shown itself willing to both keep up its ‘maximum pressure’ campaign on Iran and its proxies while riding roughshod over Iraqi sovereignty by remaining in the country even as Baghdad leaders and the broader population demand a final exit.

But in another sign Europe is ready to divorce itself from US aims in the region, France has abruptly withdrawn its forces from the country after being there for five years. Interestingly the prime reason given was troop safety concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, but we imagine European leaders likely now see an opportunity to make a swift and easy exit without provoking the ire of their US counterparts.

International correspondents say this includes French withdrawal from six bases, with a small contingent of about 100 troops remaining in the country. The Czech Ministry of Defense also announced the exit of its forces Wednesday, which followed a large contingent of British forces leaving last week, also on fears of coronavirus exposure during the mission.

“British, French, Australian and Czech troops who were coaching Iraqi counterparts were being temporarily sent home as Baghdad had put a hold on training operations to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” reports the AFP this week.

All had been there to support coalition anti-ISIL operations led by Washington. But as the US mission to defeat the Islamic State has lately become less relevant given the demise of the terror group, Washington’s focus became Iranian influence inside Iraq – far beyond the original mission scope.

The US itself had been reportedly drawing down from certain bases, but is not expected to ultimately depart given the current high state of tensions with Iran-backed militias in the country.

But Iran and Iraq’s ‘counter-pressure’ campaign is only set to continue, as on Thursday two rockets slammed into the Iraqi capital’s high-security Green Zone early in the morning, in an incident that’s become almost a monthly occurrence. There were no reports of injuries.

Middle East regional correspondent and analyst Elijah Magnier observes of the rapid draw down: “Coronavirus is offering an opportunity for the world to detach itself from US dominance and reshuffle alliances.”

Indeed this will likely be the outcome in geopolitical hot spots and even economies around the globe.