‘US campaign in Iraq may escalate like Vietnam’

‘US campaign in Iraq may escalate like Vietnam’
Washington could order ground troops to fight Islamic State militants, according to US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. That is a distinct possibility – but the US must ensure it does not escalate the situation, US defense analyst Ivan Eland told RT.

RT:What do you make of the possibility of the US sending soldiers to Iraq? Do you think Washington will eventually agree to this?

Ivan Eland: I think there is a lot of trepidation after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – which lasted for a long time and exhausted America – for a large scale ground operation. There may be Special Forces; they discussed in this meeting about rescuing any US pilots who may be shot down. Those are, of course, very specialized missions. Whether there will be more troops on the ground, well, I think we already have around 1,200 advisers in Iraq, advising both the Kurds and the Iraqi army, so I think there is a possibility it could go down the escalation path.

This is how we got dragged into Vietnam. We had a few thousand advisors, which then turned into tens of thousands of advisors, which then turned into to 500,000 ground combat troops. When things don’t work and you put in so many forces, there is pressure to put in more forces when you commit your prestige to this, so I think this may happen because you need Special Forces to spot for some of the air attacks. There is always the danger that this could escalate and this is the real danger of it.

RT:Can Washington really allow itself to enter another war?

IE: Politically, I don’t think that is very sound. I think Obama knows that, and even his Republican opponents who are baiting him to do just that would like to get him involved in a quagmire, or at least attack him if he refuses to do that.

I think there is a lot of pushback on the other side, because we have had these two failures in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is significant pressure not to escalate it, but you also never know what is going to happen on the ground – are pilots going to be shot down? Or are rescue efforts going to fail? You have to send more troops? Or are the forces in Iraq not going to be trained very quickly with the limited number of advisors? There are different scenarios that you can see where it would escalate.

Hopefully the public pressure will keep this contained, because I really don’t think that the threat to the United States from ISIL (IS) is as great as people are making it out to be. There was a lot of hype after ISIL (IS) beheaded US journalists and a British aid worker; this is creating a reaction, which will hopefully disappear over time.

Obama has approved this mission, but the public certainly doesn't want ground troops. I don’t think the American public realizes that the air campaign which is taking place could escalate into a ground campaign as well.

RT:The ambassador for the European Union in Iraq has claimed that several European states are secretly buying oil from the jihadists – how likely is this?

IE: I'm not sure. There may be private companies in Europe which are not under government ownership, so it is possible that some European people or companies are buying oil, especially if they can get it at a discounted price. The jihadists are selling it to somebody because they are making money and they are shipping it out through Turkey, among other places. I think it is possible that some entities in Europe are buying it. Maybe their governments don’t know about it, or are looking the other way, but it is certainly possible that this is happening.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.