Dr. Zeravan Muhsin
2021 / 4 / 9
Strategic Dialogue with uncertainty.
The uncertainty of the Iraqi situation has reflected in various factors such as political, security, and economic crises at the domestic level together with the regional interference in Iraqi domestic affairs. Hence, the political and security developments have complicated the possibility to stabilize Iraq in the near future. The use of Iraqi soil as a battlefield among different regional players aiming for the balance of power has created obvious challenges to the current government to achieve any reform without having international support from the game changers in the Middle East, especially the United States. The current ambitious prime minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi seems to be different in his style of leadership comparing with the former Iraqi leaders since 2003. Apparently, such characteristics can be considered as the key element in changing the Iraqi situation through achieving the idea of state-building in Iraq after it fails for more than a decade. On the other hand, the US seems interested in having such a strong leader to stabilize the Iraqi situation. And protect the US interests which will help to maintain its political existence in the Middle East. Hence, such a mission will surely reduce the Iranian influence in the region and make an end to the Iranian interference in Baghdad’s affairs, particularly considering Iraq as a backward of Tehran’s regional ambition. Based on the above background the political and security challenges demonstrate the main obstacles to implement any strategic agreement between Iraq and the United States. The main challenges for such an Iraqi agreement with the US are i) The political division in Iraq, ii)lack of national harmony, iii)Armed militia with a close connection to Iran. And. IV) The crisis in the relations between Baghdad and Erbil. Those are the main issues that need to be addressed before highlighting the possibility of the strategic dialogue´-or-agreement between Washington and Baghdad. Starting with the political division, the ruling Shia group has dramatically divided among national projects that reflect Shia liberal leader Mustafa Al-Kadhimi in coordination with Muqtada al-Sadr, the Iraqi Shia cleric and politician who has supported Al- Kadhimi. And Fatah Alliance controls the strong army and political networks in Iraq with close relations with Iran. Therefore, any attempt by the current prime minister to-limit- the Iranian influence can create domestic conflict and affect negatively the unstable security situation in Iraq. This political environment inside Iraq seems not to serve any agreement between Baghdad and Washington, because of the division among Iraqi groups that have different positions on the US interests. For instance, Fatah s collation requires an immediate withdrawal of the US army from Iraq, in order to achieve a goal, Fatah has used the Iraqi parliament to issue a legislative decision against the existence of the US army in Iraq. On the other hand, the Prime Minister believes that without the US support it is almost impossible to reduce the Iranian influence and ensure the sovereignty of the country. This political division inside Iraq needs to be highlighted by the coming US administration if Washington wants to support the state-building project in Iraq. In addition to the previous point, since 2003, the Iraqi leaders and political parties have failed to build a national political program based on citizenship more than sectarian arrangement. This has surely complicated the security and political situation and increase the country’s vulnerability towards regional interference. Therefore, there is Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish identities. But, there is no Iraqi identity that can create national harmony which results in political stability. In order to have a healthy agreement between Iraq and any other country, there should be a national agreement on such an effort another way with the current wake state it is not possible for the US and Iraq to achieve the goals of the strategic dialogue. Furthermore, the political and security stability in Iraq can be achieved by disarming the ideological militias and restricting weapons under the control of the state. The use of militias by Iran to change the political map in Iraq is the main challenge for any future plan between the US and Iraq, this reality is obvious on the ground. There are daily events of targeting the US bases and interests by those groups using rocket and military tools in order to create pressure on the Iraqi Prime minister to prevent him from any cooperation with the United States. Hence, if the Iraqi state remains vulnerable to such militias then it will be unrealistic to talk about the agreement between Iraq and the US in the near future. Finally, the balance between the central government and the Kurdistan regional government is of high significance in the issue of strategic dialogue between Washington and Baghdad. If the two governments could not reach an agreement on the economic and political issues, then Iraq will remain vulnerable to the regional countries, particularly Turkey that has strong connections with KRG, and Erbil still uses Ankara as a regional protector from the expansion of Iran, and the centralization of Baghdad government that attempts to reduce the Kurdish influence in Iraqi affairs. These efforts have been implemented by the Iraqi government through issuing new regulations aiming at the-limit-ation of the KRG, particularly in its foreign relations. There should be a political trust between Baghdad and Erbil to solve the current problems between the two sides. And through having Kurdish support, the strategic dialogue can be affordable between Iraq and the US. In short, Iraq needs to conduct comprehensive reform in terms of politics, economics, and security in order to maintain its balance with Iran and Turkey. This can provide a better ground for the strategic dialogue between the US and Iraq.
Dr. Zeravan Barwari