How should the U.S. react to the deaths on Jan. 28 of three U.S. servicemen in Iraq? Paul Pillar, a former head of the Middle East division of the National Intelligence Council and a 28-year career CIA intelligence officer, argues that now is the time to take the long-overdue step of bringing the 3,400 American troops deployed in Iraq and Syria home, before a big war results.
Those troops are there “ostensibly to fight ISIS. But after Sunday’s attacks, they may become the reason we fight Iran,” he warns in his Jan. 29 article posted on Responsible Statecraft. Whatever their original mission was, those troops now serve as “sitting-duck targets” for groups “wishing to make a violent ant-U.S. statement.” The “tit-for-tat sequence” of U.S. airstrikes against militias in Iraq and Syria alternating with more militia attacks on U.S. installations risks “escalation into a larger conflict.”
The official “rationale” for the U.S. troop deployment was to prevent the rise of ISIS, but the U.S. “fixation with Iran” is another motivation, Pillar writes. He proposes a radically different policy: the U.S. should cooperate with Iran against ISIS. He explains: