What the Iraqis want from Trump
During the recent US elections and amid overwhelming negative media coverage of Donald Trump’s campaign, I suspect I was among the relatively few non-Americans who were hoping for his victory.
I was motivated, first, by a strong desire for change and, second, by the enduring feeling of dissatisfaction experienced by all Iraqis during the terms of the last four US presidents — George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
The worst destruction of Iraq happened under George W. Bush. He invaded Iraq with biblical conviction of fighting Gog and Magog. He spread chaos, wiped out the state and imported sectarian demagogues to rule the country. Under the pretence of establishing democracy in a new Middle East, he laid the foundations for a corrupt regime of sectarian rule, which was truly unworthy of the United States, the self-proclaimed champion of democracy.
With Obama, the Iraqis were hopeful of better days, given that the new president had opposed the war in Iraq and had made campaign promises to bring changes in the Iraqi file. Instead, and following an obscure philosophy based on avoiding the hell of the Middle East altogether, the Obama administration came up with the failing strategy of leaving Iraq and the entire region to Iran instead of the Arabs in exchange for the nuclear deal.
Obama declared more than once that his administration does not have a strategy for Iraq and the Middle East, especially after the sudden appearance of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria. ISIS’s mission was to flare up sectarian and ethnic strife. The United States turned a blind eye to the point where Trump accused Obama and Democratic Party candidate for president Hillary Clinton of being behind ISIS.
Under the watchful eyes of the United States and Iran, Iraq plunged into chaos and sectarian strife. Obama had tried to make the Sunni Arabs in Iraq believe that he would remedy the unfair power distribution in the country but continued to close his eyes to all the abuse meted on them. The situation worsened with the departure of US troops in 2011. Armed extremist militias rampaged through the country and corruption became the order of the day.
To remedy the situation, the Obama administration stopped at removing Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and replacing him with Haider al-Abadi, with the blessings of Iran of course. The unfair system of governance was left untouched. The Iraqi Sunnis were abandoned to the whims of ISIS and Iranian-backed militias.
So, after all this wanton destruction, what can Iraqis possibly expect from Trump? He was at the same time against and for the war on Iraq. He knew that a war would annihilate Iraq and leave the region wide open for Iran but in an interview dating to 2002, he declared that he supported the war.
He regretted Saddam Hussein’s departure and pointed to the “existence of a link between [Saddam’s] fall and the surge in terrorist acts”. At the same time, he wanted to implement his theory of the “spoils of war”.
He was against the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq before reimbursement for the cost of the war estimated at $3 trillion. He was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as having said: “You heard me; I would take the oil. I would not leave Iraq and let Iran take over the oil.” He also insisted in an interview with ABC News that his actions would not be considered stealing: “We’re not stealing anything. We’re reimbursing ourselves.”
Of course, Trump’s views came under heavy criticism from energy experts and strategists. Jay Hicks reminded Trump of what his (Trump’s) role model, General Douglas MacArthur, had done after occupying Japan. He had forsaken America’s spoils of war in Japan and instead had distributed food and aid to the civilian population, thus winning for the United States the respect of the Japanese and the rest of the world.
With respect to Iran, Trump’s intentions are still vague. In his campaign, he came out strongly against Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran but that remains campaign rhetoric. The fact remains that, since the Bush era, the Republicans were always willing to work with Iran. Can Trump go against his party’s line of conduct and go after Iran in the region?
Trump’s entire Middle East policy is very vague. He is in the process of forming his administration and it is too early to gauge the role of the extreme right in this administration.
What the Iraqis expect from Trump is for his administration to stop backing sectarian politics and its figures in Iraq. A complete change in the policies followed by US agencies in Iraq is also needed. All that these policies have done is transform a bunch of opportunists into paper tigers.
The Iraqi people are willing to pay any price to remove the unfairness they have been subjected to since 2003, get rid of the corrupt sectarian regime and look forward to a new era of civil modern governance.