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UPDATE: Sec. Def. Espers Rebukes Letter, Confirms That No Troop Pull Out Planned in Iraq

Promises made. Promises kept by President Trump.

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UPDATE: The Pentagon has weighed in on the report about the troop withdrawal, and has confirmed that the troops will not be leaving Iraq after all.

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In the wake of the attack in Baghdad that killed Iranian general and terrorist leader, Qasem Soleimani, it is being reported that President Trump is ordering the U.S. Armed Forces to troops out.

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“Sir, in deference to the sovereignty of the Republic of Iraq, and as requested by the Iraqi Parliament and the Prime Minister, CJTF-OIR will be repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement,” wrote United States Marine Corps Brigadier General William H. Seely III, the commanding general of Task Force Iraq in the reported letter.

“We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure,” it said.

It is worth noting that the Pentagon has yet to confirm the authenticity of the letter, and there may be a U.S. presence that remains in the nation in some other capacity.

Read the letter here:

Previously, President Trump had said that any withdrawal from Iraq was contingent upon the nation paying the U.S. back for the billions invested in the embassy in the nation. He threatened economic sanctions unless the Iraqis were willing to pay up.

“We’ve spent a lot of money in Iraq,” Trump said to reporters aboard Air Force One as he made his way back to Washington after celebrating the Christmas season at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago.

“We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that’s there. It cost billions of dollars to build. … We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it,” he added.

“We will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever,” Trump said. “It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.”

It remains to be seen if President Trump announces sanctions following this reported removal of forces.

The Iranians continue to escalate following the drone killing of Soleimani, making the possibility of a war seem more likely. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made a Twitter post on Monday referencing an Iran Air passenger jet that was shot down by U.S. naval forces in 1988, which resulted in the deaths of 290 people.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement today that was very non-committal, urging people to be patient before judging President Trump’s actions.

“We can and we should learn more about the intelligence and thinking that led to this operation and the plan to defend American personnel and interests in the wake of it,” McConnell told reporters at the Capitol building following the return from winter break for lawmakers.

“Unfortunately, in this toxic political environment, some of our colleagues rushed to blame our own government before even knowing the facts. Rushed to split hairs about intelligence before being briefed on it,” he added.

Big League Politics will continue to report on this story as it develops.

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Will Josh Hawley be the Next Champion for an America First Foreign Policy?

America First May Have its Next Leader to End Wars Abroad

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Does America First have a new non-interventionist champion?

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley has been viewed by many as one of the figures who could potentially lead a Trumpist movement after Trump, should Joe Biden end up being installed as president on January 2021.

Hawley has made a name for himself as a champion of Middle America and questioning the neoliberal orthodoxy on immigration and trade. Lately, Hawley has made a pivot towards  questioning the interventionist conventional wisdom on foreign policy. 

In early October of this year, the Missouri Senator called for the American government to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Hawley tweeted, “Almost 20 years now in Afghanistan. Long past time to draw this war to an end.”

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Hawley’s foreign policy has been a work progress over the past two years. During a 2019 speech Hawley gave at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), he questioned the nation-building policy prescriptions of previous administrations, demonstrating some degree of skepticism towards non-stop interventionism abroad on the part of the Senator.

That said, it remains to be seen if Hawley’s legislative record will fully match his rhetoric.

Hawley is a staunch China hawk, who fears the rise of China and is a strong voice against China’s expansionist efforts. Hawley’s track record shows that his foreign policy views are rough around the edges. Daniel Larison of The American Conservative is not as optimistic about Hawley judging by his votes on the Yemeni Civil War. Larison cited several of Hawley’s votes that may be cause for concern:

Sen. Hawley voted against the Senate’s resolution of disapproval that opposed the president’s effort to circumvent Congress with a bogus “emergency” to expedite arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. More important, he voted with the president and most Senate Republicans against the antiwar Yemen resolution that would have cut off all U.S. support to the Saudi coalition.”

Nevertheless, Hawley’s comments on Afghanistan are a good sign that Hawley is catching on to the fact that Americans are tired of foreign wars. Politicians can change their views and behaviors. Hawley is likely recognizing that the America First movement is exhausted by the endless wars and wants candidates and elected officials who offer withdrawal plans. 

After looking at the list of people who have been tapped to join the Biden administration, Hawley tweeted, “What a group of corporatists and war enthusiasts – and #BigTech sellouts.”

Journalist Glenn Greenwald, a fierce interventionist skeptic, maintained cautious optimism about Hawley. In a tweet, he commented, “All kinds of reasons to be skeptical of the authenticity here, but — purely as a matter of rhetoric — just imagine any national Republican speaking this way about a Dem administration even 10 years ago. The framework of politics is radically shifting.”

The jury is still out on Hawley. Regardless of flaws in his voting record, America First advocates should continue to push him and other America First leaning Republicans in the right direction. We should never forget that politicians are still receptive to political pressure and the grassroots holds the keys to political change. 

Young senators like Hawley are the future of American politics and it makes sense for foreign policy restrainers to lobby them and push them in a direction that favors non-interventionism.

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