What we’re most likely to see as anti-US and anti-Iranian protests continue to consume Iraq is a compromise that allows U.S. influence to remain under the guise of NATO, or a compromise that allows the U.S. to withdraw while appearing not to have--whichever way you wish to interpret it.
Already, the groundwork is being laid for a NATO role that would in some way replace the existing U.S. role in Iraq, leaving a NATO force to deal with ISIS and serve as a counter to Iranian influence.
This is largely a capitulation to Iran, which is enjoying another victory on Iraqi soil in the aftermath of the withdrawal of Shia “nationalist” cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his supporters from the mass protests.
It is unclear how al-Sadr’s withdrawal of support for the protests will affect a movement comprised of many who on one hand welcomed the extra support (which also meant a degree of protection from pro-Iranian militias) and on the other hand, wished for the protests to remain outside the realm of party politics.
While there is no sign that protests are breaking up with the withdrawal of al-Sadr--and indeed, protests have intensified this week--the result is a crackdown by pro-Iranian militia forces who now feel more freedom to attack protesters.
While the key oil-rich province of Basra is feeling the heat of protests that have succeeded in intermittently disrupting oilfields, production remains on track.…