Will Biden and al-Kadhimi only produce platitudes about Iraq?

0

During a military parade in Baghdad at the end of June, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi saluted the Popular Mobilization Forces, a coordination group of militias largely supported by Iran. Smiling broadly, he had put his arm around the vice president of the militia, Abdulaziz al-Mohammadawi (known as Abu Fadak), who was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department in January.

Exactly a month later, al-Kadhimi will arrive in Washington, where he is expected to meet with US President Joe Biden on Monday. Will Al-Kadhimi have an equally wide smile? In their public statements, the two leaders are likely to repeat familiar diplomatic platitudes, including their continued commitment to fight terrorism and maintain Iraqi sovereignty in the face of outside interference. However, Biden, al-Kadhimi and everyone present will know full well that the threat of terrorism will continue to grow without a clear strategy to curb it and Iraqi sovereignty is violated every day, including by Iranian-backed militias who have parade in front of al -Kadhimi in June.

During a military parade in Baghdad at the end of June, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi saluted the Popular Mobilization Forces, a coordination group of militias largely supported by Iran. Smiling broadly, he had put his arm around the vice president of the militia, Abdulaziz al-Mohammadawi (known as Abu Fadak), who was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department in January.

Exactly a month later, al-Kadhimi will arrive in Washington, where he is expected to meet with US President Joe Biden on Monday. Will Al-Kadhimi have an equally wide smile? In their public statements, the two leaders are likely to repeat familiar diplomatic platitudes, including their continued commitment to fight terrorism and maintain Iraqi sovereignty in the face of outside interference. However, Biden, al-Kadhimi and everyone present will know full well that the threat of terrorism will continue to grow without a clear strategy to curb it and Iraqi sovereignty is violated every day, including by Iranian-backed militias who have parade in front of al -Kadhimi in June.

Al-Kadhimi, like his predecessors for nearly two decades, spends much of his time trying to maintain an unstable balance between the United States and Iran, the two main supporters of the Iraqi political system since 2003. However, even though the United States and Iran sometimes overlap interests – in the fight against Islamic State, for example – the objectives of the two countries are polar opposites. Iran wants Iraq to become a theocratic state closely linked to Iran’s Shia leadership while the United States ultimately wants a civic and federal Iraqi state to emerge. In turn, Iraqi politics waver from one direction to the other, trying to maintain the support of Washington and Tehran. Pulled on both sides, Baghdad is on the verge of losing its balance.

Maintaining its influence over Baghdad, Tehran is increasingly following the same scenario as elsewhere in the region: undermining legitimate government through non-state militias, just as it does with its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis. in Yemen. Meanwhile, Washington is developing a Middle East strategy that prioritizes avoiding confrontation with Iran while placing the onus of pushing back Tehran’s regional expansionism on the Arab states. A stable Iraq capable of governing itself is integral to the success of the American vision.

Next week’s US-Iraq summit coincides with the accelerated withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. As the government in Kabul grapples with a Taliban resurgence, questions arise across the Middle East and beyond about the reliability of the United States as an ally. This makes it all the more important for the Biden administration to prove its continued strategic commitment to Iraq, as an example of Washington’s reliability. Instead, the administration’s approach is another demonstration of inconsistency.

There are three possible outcomes for next week’s meeting. The first is all too familiar: a photoshoot for a foreign leader in the White House. Al-Kadhimi may seek to capitalize on being received by Biden like other important leaders. That won’t be enough for the public at home, however, where few Iraqis are in the mood to see al-Kadhimi take advantage of US support as the situation in Iraq worsens – with more than 160 people killed in two hospital fires. to a horrible suicide bombing in Sadr City which killed at least 35 people in the devastating third wave of COVID-19, which Iraq is currently fighting.

The second possible outcome is a substantive meeting that can have a positive impact on the course of events, especially the Iraqi national elections in October. Biden could pressure al-Kadhimi to curb the corruption that plagues the Iraqi state and focus on rebuilding the country’s economy. Last May, the World Bank published a scathing report on the human capital crisis in Iraq. Among the Middle Eastern and North African countries studied, it is only in war-torn Yemen that young people are less likely to contribute to the workforce and to society. The Biden administration claims to have a values-driven foreign policy agenda. If this is true, then Biden must promote the values ​​of justice and dignity in Iraq. He could start by holding those responsible for killing activists and protesters to account. In addition, this year’s elections must be free and fair. Biden must also encourage al-Kadhimi to take a firm stand against the various militias in Iraq, especially those backed by Iran – and assure him of American support if he chooses to do so.

In turn, al-Kadhimi should get Biden to commit to a long-term US presence in Iraq that goes beyond fighting Islamic State. US support is needed to curb all non-state armed groups and for the Iraqi military and police to provide security. Above all, al-Kadhimi must seek a guarantee from Washington to support Iraq’s independence and not use it as a pawn in negotiations with Iran.

The third possible outcome – and most concerning – is a brief and superficial meeting without tangible follow-up, demonstrating a clear lack of US interest in Iraq. Such an outcome would considerably weaken al-Kadhimi, who has already lost much goodwill among Iraqis, and undermine those in Baghdad who promote a West-oriented Iraq.

The impact of the Biden-al-Kadhimi summit will go far beyond Iraq. The governments of Lebanon in Yemen will monitor the seriousness of Biden’s approach. If the only group Biden mentioned is the Islamic State, then those countries will know to expect more trouble to come. By ignoring the militias, Biden will have given them the green light to take more control in Iraq and strongly influence the October elections.

As the elections approach, Al-Kadhimi’s window for lasting change in Iraq is closing. His opponents want to make sure he does not form the next government, and his allies are increasingly concerned that they will pay a heavy price to stand up to the militias if a pro-Iran coalition aligned with the militias gains power in October.

Al-Kadhimi’s time is running out and Biden’s time to focus on Iraq is limited. There are good reasons to be skeptical about the possibility of a breakthrough. But the White House summit could offer a rare chance for results that help Iraq, its people and the entire region.


Source link

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.