What Iraqis want from Trump
US President Donald Trump has said and tweeted a great many things but made scant reference to Iraq.
That is understandable because the man comes from the world of finance and is used to only dollar and real estate fluctuations. He suddenly finds himself thrust into a world of political complexities, military and intelligence complications and strategic economic interests.
Trump takes office within the context of a hugely shrinking US role in the world and in the Middle East, a region afflicted with creative chaos. So what will be the new administration’s foreign policy priorities during the first 100 days and where is the Iraqi file in all of this confusion?
One might venture that Iraq will not be among Trump’s priorities, especially after the possible death of the Islamic State (ISIS) in the country.
ISIS is an offspring of al-Qaeda. The latter is an old toy by now, one used by the United States against the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan from 1979-89. The Saudis were brought into the game at the time by giving it a religious dimension.
As to today’s new toy — ISIS — it serves the agendas of big chiefs and small chiefs in the region. The United States uses it to keep its hand on a vital region and the Russians use it to facilitate their return to influential roles through the war in Syria.
So what is Trump’s plan for Iraq, pre- and post-ISIS? How will he translate into acts his campaign declaration: “There is no Iraq; there is only a bunch of thieves and thugs”? The Iraqi file includes issues that will eventually impose themselves on the White House, even if Trump has no desire to get involved.
With the second largest oil reserves in the world, Iraq is not an obscure insignificant spot on the globe. Neither the United States nor Europe is at a point it can do without Arab and Iraqi oil.
Trump and his advisers surely remember that when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 the forces went straight to the oil fields and refineries. The Iraqi Museum and other historic sites were also placed under armed protection. Trump was irked by George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s policies in Iraq as these two did not levy a war tax, which he estimated at $1.5 trillion and which he seems adamant to collect. Trump seems also willing to send US soldiers to occupy Iraqi oil fields and transfer the oil to the United States.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi dismissed Trump’s declarations as “campaign rhetoric” but these days there are leaked news of new arrivals of US troops at US military bases in Ain Al-Asad, Al-Habania and other places. US military sources have declared that US troops were being sent to Iraq to stay even after ISIS is kicked out of the country. So no matter how hard Trump tries to ignore the situation in Iraq, it will catch up with him because it is at the heart of all crises in the Middle East.
Can Trump seriously come up with a political solution for Syria without one for the situation in Iraq as well and what would this solution be?
The Obama administration implemented important policies in the region that established Iranian influence in Iraq as unavoidable in any obscure strategic schemes. Former US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad boasted on several occasions about continuous US coordination efforts with Iran doubtless in preparation for occupying Iraq.
This also explains the importance given to Shia Iraqi parties in US policies in Iraq. The anti-US rhetoric of these parties is just a marketing ploy. Despite repeated scandals of corruption and mismanagement in the Iraqi state apparatus, the Obama administration failed to bring about any serious changes for the benefit of all Iraqis. Officials of the US embassy in Iraq did not have enough clout to reverse the disastrous effects of policies conceived and implemented by the extremist right-wing American cartel.
Surely Trump and his advisers realise that the military elimination of ISIS in Iraq must pave the way to serious political reforms. The question is: Do Trump and his administration seriously intend to introduce serious reforms in Iraq and put a stop to political Islam or was all that tough talk just campaign rhetoric? Can they free Iraq from Iran?
What the Iraqis want from Trump is for him to remove from his circle all those advisers and lobbyists who engineered the sectarian government in Iraq. They want concrete measures leading to peaceful civil government. They want him to help them remove from power those who destroyed Iraq and to rely on liberal figures from both the Sunnis and the Shias. They want a serious and fair solution for Arab Iraqis because Iraqi Kurds are already busy constructing their new state.