Washington would like to move Patriot missiles to Iraq to do their job defending US forces, if only America could get the relevant approvals. Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said conversations are still taking place with Iraq about whether the air defense system can go from Kuwait to bases where US forces are present in Iraq.The US is hamstrung in Iraq because it has to ask Baghdad’s permission to bring in weapon systems to defend US forces. This seems a bit strange given that the US priority is usually to do everything possible to defend its forces, but America is operating in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government. The US role in Iraq is to fight ISIS as part of the global coalition. However, on January 3 a US airstrike killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi Shi’ite militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. The US also carried out five air strikes in late December against Kataib Hezbollah targets in Iraq and Syria.Numerous Iraqi politicians who are pro-Iran are non-plussed with the US moves, and some want the US to leave. For instance the powerful cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has partnered with Hadi al-Amiri of the Badr Organization to bring protesters to Baghdad to oppose the US. Sadr and Badr have also allied to select a new prime minister. Amiri was trained by Iran’s IRGC in the 1980s. Like Muhandis, he was close to Soleimani and also supported protests at the US embassy in late December.The US needs air defense in Iraq because of near-weekly rocket attacks on US forces in Iraq and also because of the Iranian ballistic missile threat. The rockets have been fired since May 2019 and are blamed on Iranian-backed militias. A ballistic missile attack from Iran in early December gave dozens of US soldiers traumatic brain injuries, or concussions.The US currently has early warning systems and soldiers must find shelter, sometimes in Saddam-era bunkers, to avoid Iran’s threats. Yet the US has systems to stop incoming ballistic missiles and rockets. It has the Patriots and two Iron Dome batteries, acquired last year. US CENTCOM Gen. Kenneth McKenzie went to Iraq on Tuesday.An article at The Drive notes that a typical US Army Patriot battery has up to eight trailer-mounted launchers and an AN/MPQ-65 multi-function phased array radar system. The radar may be in Iraq, but the Patriots are not, according to the report. The report also notes that the US has 18 Air Defense Artillery Battalions, and each of these has three to five batteries. That means the US Patriots are actually spread quite thin, with some in the US for training, two in Germany, two in South Korea, one in Japan, four in Saudi Arabia and others protecting different places. The Drive concludes that there aren’t that many available for Iraq anyway.Evidence of the Patriot shortage comes from recent reports that Greece is sending Patriots to Saudi Arabia to help it protect critical infrastructure. Could that free up some US Patriots for Iraq? Either way the few that are available will apparently come through Kuwait. Washington just needs Baghdad’s permission. Iraq’s politicians seem to believe the Patriot is an escalation or entrenchment of American forces.A more complex agenda may be at work. Iran doesn’t want the US to have more defenses in Iraq. Iraqi politicians may think that if they slow down the Patriots, then the US will withdraw some forces – which is what Sadr, Amiri and others want. Iran has shown it can strike where it wants in Iraq. The US army – the best equipped army in the world with access to the latest technology and big budgets provided by the Trump administration – may not have access to the one thing it needs most now in Iraq: air defense. All because of some red tape in Baghdad.