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US Has Few Good Options As Marines From San Diego Defend US Embassy In Iraq

Marines from Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Crisis Resp...

Credit: Defense of Department

Above: Marines from Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Crisis Response force for U.S. Central Command guard US Embassy in Baghdad, Jan. 1, 2020.

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Though President Trump’s stated goal had been to pull the U.S. out of conflicts like Syria and Afghanistan, 3,000 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division were touching down in Kuwait, prepared to head into Iraq Friday, a day after a U.S. drone strike killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani at the Baghdad Airport.

Aired: January 6, 2020 | Transcript

Even as more U.S. troops arrive in the Middle East, options for the United States remain limited.

Though President Trump’s stated goal had been to pull the U.S. out of conflicts like Syria and Afghanistan, 3,000 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division were touching down in Kuwait, prepared to head into Iraq Friday, a day after a U.S. drone strike killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani at the Baghdad Airport.

Erik Gartzke, director of the Center for Peace and Security Studies at the University of California, San Diego, says troop interventions can become a target.

“We’ve already discovered those are costly,” Gartzke said. “They're fruitless. They lead to the deaths of Americans without major foreign policy achievements.”

RELATED: US Sending 3,000 More Troops To Mideast As Reinforcements

The troop surge may be temporary, though the U.S. remains stuck between staying or leaving Iraq since the invasion in 2003, he said.

“If you don’t want to be the 800 pound gorilla in the room then you’re not going to call the shots,” Gartzke said. “You can influence the process, if you do it skillfully, but you can’t be the decider anymore.”

U.S. installations are on alert around the world. Iran will almost certainly retaliate for the killing of a top general. Gartzke doesn’t believe the conflict will boil over into open warfare between the U.S. and Iran. Not only does the U.S. have far superior conventional forces, but Iran doesn’t need to go head-to-head with the U.S., if its leaders believe the Americans are slowly on their way out of Iraq.

“Iran’s position has been strengthening over time. The longer they wait, the stronger (their) position becomes,” he said.

RELATED: After A Bold American Gambit Against Iran, 4 Big Questions About What’s Next

In the meantime, Marines from Southern California have been fortifying the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. They are part of the Marine Corps' Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Crisis Response force for U.S. Central Command. The task force includes marines from the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, California and Marine Corps Air Station at Miramar.

Reported by Steve Walsh , Video by Matthew Bowler

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Steve Walsh
Military Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover military and veterans issues for KPBS and American Homefront, a partnership of public radio stations and NPR. I cover issues ranging from delpoying troops along the California border to efforts to lower suicide rates among veterans.

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