The blitz Iraqi offensive to re-claim territories annexed by ambitious Kurds in the wake of the defeat of ISIS which I covered here, has seen Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi prove he is a leader capable of standing up for Iraqi territorial integrity. Iran also played a vital role in persuading the PUK to work with Iraq, rather than with Barzani’s thuggish PKK and KDP. Leveraging off its close ties with the Sulaymaniyah-based PUK, Iran has seized the opportunity to further squeeze any potential US ambitions along the border with Syria by directing the PMU to sweep Anbar province up to Al Qaim.
The PMU are now positioning themselves to storm Al Qaim and seal an important border crossing with Syria from the grips of ISIS. Iraqi PMU forces will be awaiting Syrian forces on the other side at the town of Al Bukamal, in the grand finale showdown of wiping out ISIS from Syria and Iraq for good. Iran and Iraq have shown further resolve by aiming to control the Rabia and Faish Khaibur border crossings with northern Syria, as well as the Ibrahim al-Khalil border crossing with Turkey. Turkey is largely in agreement with Baghdad and Tehran with these aims. The Iraqi Kurdistan project thus seems to be indefinitely stalled. The US seems to have been caught unaware by these moves, heavily relying on the Rabia and Faish Khaibur crossings to arm and supply their SDF proxies in Syria. They will now have to contend with Iraqi and PMU forces policing these crossings, impeding their aims in Syria.
Naturally, the US has reacted to all these adverse moves by directing the SDF to attempt to reach Al Bukamal before the SAA in an attempt to drive a wedge between PMU forces in Iraq and Syrian forces. With the PMU presently sweeping the border with Syria up to Al-Qaim, should events move against the SAA in Al Bukamal, PMU forces could technically allow Syrian forces passage through Iraqi territory as a short cut, enabling them to reach Al Bukamal much sooner. This remains a possible option to expedite Syrian-Iraqi border continuity and check-mating the US yet again in Syraq, – a place where the US is increasingly getting cornered among a sea of increasingly hostile states.