US Has Few Good Options As Marines From San Diego Defend US Embassy In Iraq
Speaker 1: 00:00 As tensions rise in the middle East to local military bases are tightening security at entry points, warning people. There could be long lines at the gate as security is stepped up, this as more troops are deployed to Iraq following tensions that reached a tipping point when president Trump ordered the killing of a top Iranian general in the country. What is the U S his next move and what can we expect to happen next? KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh joins us with more. Steve, thanks for joining us. In addition to more troops being deployed, those that were already in Iraq have been redirected. Tell us about that. Speaker 2: 00:34 So there was a U S led, uh, anti ISIS coalition in Iraq in Syria, and they announced over the weekend that they're pulling back. They were supposed to be training Iraqi forces for the fight against ISIS, but instead they're going to be pulling back so they can defend us bases in Iraq as well as the U S embassy. Speaker 1: 00:51 The need for increased security at the basis is due to a concern of retaliation by Iran over the killing of Iranian general costume. Sulaymani you spoke to a UC San Diego professor about ways Iran could retaliate. What did you learn there? Speaker 2: 01:07 So we talked with Eric [inaudible] who's with the center for peace and security studies at a UC San Diego. What he felt is that, uh, obviously Iran will retaliate in some way, uh, but they're less likely to attack the U S openly considering the U S has such superior conventional forces. Also, he felt that Iran has all the time in the world that they've been the, uh, the major beneficiary of a U S policy in Iraq so far. And as long as they can just sort of bide their time, it's increasingly likely that we'll end up, uh, leaving, or at least our present will be presence will be greatly reduced and that Iran will end up filling that power vacuum. Speaker 1: 01:48 And you know, Steve, uh, over the weekend there were, there was a lot of talk of a draft, particularly on social media. What is your understanding of if that's something that would happen? Speaker 2: 01:58 Well, yes, this selective service servers actually crashed on Friday after so many people rushed in there to see whether or not the draft had been imposed or how that might work. Now I can tell you it's very unlikely that a draft would be imposed just the way it would work. It would take upwards of a year for people to actually even mobilize and it's very unlikely that there's going to be a large, massive ground war against Iran. Uh, but what it does say is just how focused people are on this. There have been several sort of tit for tat back and forth that we've pulled out of Syria, but this, the killing of Solomanis seems to have really galvanized not only Iranians, but a lot of young Americans who think that we could be in for world war three. Whether or not we are going for world war three. That's another question, but people are really starting to talk about this. Speaker 1: 02:46 Do the people you've spoken with, uh, believe that this could lead us into war? Speaker 2: 02:52 War is essentially when two sides declare that they are at war. When they acknowledge this in many ways, Iran and the United States have been in a smoldering war for, for several years, and it really is a matter of whether or not this would break out into open conflict if whether or not the U S would actually declare that it was fighting against Iran, whether or not they liked the president said that they would have started attacking sites within Iran cultural sites and actually create an open warfare with the country of Iran. This comes as the parliament voted to end. The U S has presence in Iraq. What prompted that vote? Well, the drone strike, they were not informed ahead of time. Uh, the American forces there, the 5,000 troops were there to help them fight ISIS, but they were not involved in any way in the planning of this, this air strike that happened at the Baghdad airport, right in Iraq. Speaker 2: 03:46 So, uh, over the weekend, the Iraqi parliament did vote to remove the U S forces, asked them to leave. This is an a resolution. It's nonbinding. The government still has to back that up with an actual order for American forces. And how has the U S reacted to that vote? So they've reacted to it by, um, president Trump has claimed on Twitter that he will impose sanctions saying that we spent a lot of money building up these bases in Iraq. I think he might be confusing sanctions with tariffs that somehow we would get money back if we imposed a sanction on the Iraqis. And you know, the consequences of that, it's pretty hard to say, given that the Iraqi government is already a fairly unstable the way things are if you impose sanctions on them, I guess you might end up with regime change in Iraq, but that regime change could be heavily influenced by Iran. Speaker 2: 04:36 And I want to circle back to the troops. What kind of impact will troops being diverted to focus on security have on the fight against ISIS? It will have a negative impact on the fight against ISIS right now. I mean, the Americans had already lowered their footprint in Syria. They had, we pulled out troops. We are, we're, we're investing less and less in that conflict. And now all of those troops are being pulled back to basically defend the Americans in the country. And Steve, some of those troops that have been deployed are from local basis, correct? They are indeed. They're part of a what's called a Marine air ground task force that was already in Kuwait. And now some of those troops have been moved to into a Baghdad to help defend the U S embassy and they're from camp Pendleton, 29 palms and Miramar, another 3,500 troops have been called up from the 82nd airborne division. Speaker 2: 05:28 That's army from the East coast. Army Rangers are also being dispatched and also from the East coast based. 26th Marine expeditionary unit has been diverted to Iraq at the same time here in San Diego. As people are concerned about what Iran might do, there's heightened security at each one of the basis here, both Marine and Navy bases. They're already warning that, uh, expect long lines if you're trying to get in or out of Miramar or, or 32nd street or any of the bases here in San Diego. I have been speaking with KPBS military reporter, Steve Walsh. Steve, thank you very much for joining us. Thanks, Jade.