Making sure Khadimi’s visit to the White House serves a purpose
It is not important for Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi simply to go to Washington to meet President Joe Biden, within the much vaunted framework of “strategic partnership” between the United States and Iraq.
What is important is what the US administration can do for Iraq in order for this country to regain its balance and its regional role and to shield itself from the Iranian expansionist project which has changed the nature of Iraq and its position in the region.
A great responsibility lies with the United States in Iraq. Kadhimi bears little responsibility for the status quo that he inherited as premier in April 2020. Both he and President Barham Salih are trying to do everything they can to ensure that Iraq becomes a country with normal relations with its neighbours, including “ The Islamic Republic.”
However, it is clear that the extent of the damage inflicted on Iraq is difficult to repair in light of the existing balance of power, considering Iranian hegemony over the state institutions that were established after April 9 2003. There needs to be an American role that helps Iraq return to the Iraqis which is the desire of the majority of the people of Iraq, including the Shia of Iraq.
Before any American talk about any kind of “partnership” with Iraq, it is necessary to get to know Iraq and what is happeneing on the ground there and to carry out a self-critique. It is uncertain whether the Biden administration is able to carry out such a process, which would have to be based on the recognition that the US invasion of Iraq, 18 years ago and the establishment of the Interim Governing Council there were both fatal mistakes. These errors cannot be corrected by traditional or diplomatic means, such as receiving Kadhimi in Washington or not receiving him, as the second Arab leader, after King Abdullah II, to visit the White House since the inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20.
The US refuses to acknowledge that the administration of George W. Bush handed Iraq over to Iran on a silver platter and that Barack Obama’s administration came to complete this process. This was evident when Iran agreed with the Obama administration to have Nuri al-Maliki serve as prime minister, even though his list did not come first in the legislative elections.
It is no secret that the Islamic State (ISIS) was able to control several parts of Iraq at a certain point. Nor is there a secret about the role that the Maliki government played in helping the expansion of ISIS. There can be a resurgence of the Islamic State again, but the biggest threat to Iraq is not ISIS. The greatest danger to Iraq lies in the Iranian goals that successive US administrations have ignored.
Can the United States, if it really wants to help Iraq, understand that there is little benefit from any assistance to Iraq if there is a parallel army to the Iraqi army called the “Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF)”? These are nothing more than a huge facade under which a group of sectarian militias affiliated with Iran operate.
It is impossible to forge a US-Iranian “partnership” in the shadow of the PMF. Kadhimi can feel proud of the arrest of the Iranian operatives accused of the assassination of Hisham al-Hashemi about a year ago. Available information shows that one of the most prominent figures behind the Hashemi murder was a member of the narrow circle surrounding the Iraqi prime minister, an officer, Ahmed al-Kinani, who belongs to the Iraqi “Kata’eib Hezbollah.” What about other crimes and what about the frank admission that Iraq is a prisoner of Iran and that the United States is responsible for Iraq’s capture?
If there is an American role in Iraq, then this role must be characterised by courage first. The courage to admit that the administrations of Bush Jr and Barack Obama have made Iraq a mere pawn of Iran. Iraq is no longer more than a card used to pressure the US in the negotiations that Washington is currently conducting with Iran.
Yes, there is a point from which the process of formulating an American policy towards Iraq can begin. But the question remains, is there an American willingness to formulate an Iraqi policy?
Nothing indicates that this is possible in the absence of a clear position towards the Iranian expansionist project, which took on a new dimension in 2003 and is still ongoing. This project is not limited to Iraq, but extends also to Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
What will America do to make sure that genuine use made of Mustafa Kadhimi’s visit to Washington?
It remains to be seen what the US can do to ensure that Khadimi’s trip to the White House serves a really useful purpose.