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A U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue: A Question of Interests and Expectations DinarDailyUpdates?bg=330099&fg=FFFFFF&anim=1

A U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue: A Question of Interests and Expectations

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A U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue: A Question of Interests and Expectations Empty A U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue: A Question of Interests and Expectations

Post by claud39 on Thu May 14, 2020 4:57 pm

[size=36]A U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue: A Question of Interests and Expectations[/size]


Karl Kaltenthaler

Karl Kaltenthaler is a Professor of Political Science and Director of Security Studies at the University of Akron. He specializes in international security issues, violent extremism, and the politics of the Middle East and South Asia. He has served as a consultant to the US State Department, the US military, and other government agencies on issues related to US policy in the Middle East and South Asia.


Munqith Dagher

Munqith Dagher is the CEO of the Baghdad-based Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies (IIACSS).



A U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue: A Question of Interests and Expectations Dagher-85x128





Anthony Cordesman


Anthony H. Cordesman is the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS. He directed the CSIS Middle East Net Assessment Project and codirected the CSIS Strategic Energy Initiative.


May 14, 2020


A U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue: A Question of Interests and Expectations USArmyIraqPatrolRoadArrest-630x420




May 14, 2020


On April 7, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for a “Strategic Dialogue” between the United States and Iraq on the future of the bilateral relationship. The dialogue, meant to be a series of meetings between high-level U.S. and Iraqi officials, is intended to put all aspects of the U.S.-Iraqi relationship on the table. 


In order to understand what said strategic dialogue may entail, and what results it might produce, it is crucial to understand what the United States and Iraq—as well as Iran, as the other major interested party—see as their interests as Iraq and the United States look to restructure their relationship.


It is also necessary in defining the dialogue’s goals to look beyond the United States’ past focus on ISIS and the present challenge from Iran that have characterized the U.S.-Iraqi relationship over the past few years. Both parties should use the opportunity of a serious dialogue on the state of bilateral relations to consider how the United States and Iraq can shape a lasting strategic relationship—one the serves both their strategic interests and helps bring peace and stability to the region.


U.S. Interests in Iraq


Before addressing what the United States may ask of Iraq in the strategic dialogue, it is important to understand why Iraq matters to the United States. Some have argued that the United States should simply cut its losses and pull out. But the response to this suggestion is simple: the stability of and relationship with Iraq is of major strategic importance to the United States in ensuring the stability of the Gulf, the flow of petroleum to the global economy, and limiting the risk of a major war with Iran.


Withdrawal from Iraq would empower both Iran’s hardline regime and regional terrorism and extremism—carrying serious repercussions for U.S. national security. Just as the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 proved to be a costly and, in hindsight, grave mistake, a future U.S. withdrawal of its forces and support for the Iraqi government—particularly support for Iraqi security forces—would have a major impact on U.S. interests in the Middle East. 

  
The importance of a continued U.S. relationship with Iraq can be distilled further into threats from four broad categories: those posed by Iran, extremist groups such as ISIS, the regional and domestic impact of a divided Iraq, and great power competition. The United States must keep focused on all four interests, or Iraq will become a major source of concern for the United States into the future. 


Iraq is central to the U.S. strategy of containing the expansion and power of Iran’s current regime. No country in the Gulf region is currently more important to the United States in trying to check the designs of Iran’s Supreme Leader, hardline revolutionaries, and the IRGC. If the United States can help Iraq’s leaders build up a stable and strong Iraq, this would would be a critical addition to deterring Iranian ambitions and Iranian military pressure on the Gulf region.


Iraq is now facing a period of governance dysfunction, deep internal divisions, and serious economic problems. However, it has a tremendous amount of oil resources and a large and educated population. If Iran is able to exploit Iraq’s problems to exert control, this would be a tremendous force multiplier for Iran. But such an effort to divide or completely dominate Iraqi politics will face significant opposition from many Shia Arabs, Sunni Arabs, and Kurdish Iraqis. The pressure will in heighten sectarian, ethnic, and regional tensions—very possibly leading to another Iraqi civil war. 


Such a civil conflict would in turn foster serious regional challenges and encourage terrorism and extremism. An unstable Iraq would help foster both Sunni and Shia extremism throughout the region, in particular aiding in the resurgence of ISIS and already hinted at with the groups increasing activating inside of Iraq. Moreover, were a highly sectarian, Shia Iraqi government pressed by Iran to exclude Sunnis from a political voice, Sunni Arabs might well find ISIS the lesser of two evils—repeating what happened following the U.S. withdrawal in 2011. The United States would be hard pressed to ignore such a scenario, suggesting that the deterioration of Iraqi sovereignty would likely lead to a new U.S. military commitment.


The United States should actually refocus its concerns on ISIS in the short-term as well. Making a political declaration that ISIS is destroyed because it no longer holds territory ignores the facts on the ground. ISIS is still very much alive and active in Iraq. In fact, it is engaged in an active guerilla campaign in Iraq’s Sunni-dominated areas, which has recently intensified. ISIS is currently much stronger in Iraq than Al Qaeda was when the United States left Iraq in 2011.

 
Moreover, the Iraqi army is still relatively weak after the triple punch to its capabilities that came when Iraq’s politics pushed the United States to withdraw in 2011. In the subsequent period, Nouri al Maliki gutted Iraqi forces of competent officers and replaced them with compliant political lackeys. This atrophy in leadership helped lead to the mass desertions and units destroyed in the war against ISIS. 


U.S. training and support for the Iraqi army is now the key to keeping Iraqi security forces on the path to regeneration. Iraq’s official military remains weaker than the Popular Mobilization Forces, where many of the Shia units are aligned with Iran. Allowing Shia militias to dominate the Iraqi security sphere will help ISIS to regain strength, not defeat it.


Finally, the U.S. has a strategic interest in Iraq to counter efforts by Russia and China to gain economic and political influence there. Both countries have already made significant efforts to increase their influence in Iraq at the expense of the Unites States. On the private side, U.S. financial investments in Iraq could be cut short if Chinese or Russian firms come to replace U.S. firms. The appearance of the United States abandoning Iraq to the Russians and Chinese would also have regional implications, signaling to other countries that the United States is a fair-weather and ultimately unreliable partner.


The bottom line when it comes to U.S. interests in Iraq is that America has a strong and compelling interest in a stable, prosperous, and politically balanced Iraq, especially given the downsides of the alternative. If the United States withdraws from Iraq before those objectives are achieved, the U.S. will ultimately face a catastrophe in Iraq that is likely to be more costly than its current investments in the country.


At the same time, staying in Iraq requires major changes in Iraqi politics, governance, and development. Iraq’s problems scarcely started with the U.S. invasion in 2003. Some date back to its creation as a state, others to its development since the fall of the monarchy, and many are the product of Saddam Hussein. Today’s problems are also all too much the result of its present leaders. The United States can only help an Iraq that helps itself.


Iranian Interests in Iraq


Iran often acts as a central counterpoint to U.S. interests in Iraq, with its central aims boiling down to making sure that Iraq never again poses a security threat to its eastern neighbor. Iran also looks to use Iraq as a way to add to the former’s strategic power in the region while maintaining and growing Iraq as a market for Iranian goods and services.



 Iran’s current security elites, whether reformist, hardliner, or otherwise, will not abandon Iraq as long as it remains weak and divided. Iran’s rulers know that they do not have that luxury.

After a years-long war in the 1980s against Saddam Hussein, Iran has decided that the best way to neutralize a potential grave national security threat to Iran’s present regime is to have “their people” running the show in Baghdad. Iran’s leaders do not think this is easily accomplished; they assume that foreign powers, particularly the United States, will seek to weaken the hand of the pro-Iranian Shia blocs in Iran, and that many Iraqis—Sunni Arabs, Kurds, and nationalist Shia Arabs—do not want to see pro-Iranian parties dominating Iraqi politics.

 
Control of Iraq also serves a broader regional purpose, part of a land bridge between Iran and Lebanon—with its de-facto control by Hezbollah. Thus, controlling Iraq is a means to expand Iranian power and influence in the Middle East, while also securing their position against potential regional competitors.


Finally, Iraq is central to Iran because it is an important market for Iran’s goods and services. This has never been more the case than now, with Iran reeling under the impact of sanctions on its economy. Iraq is a market for distressed Iranian goods—goods that can find no other markets. Pro-Iranian Shia politicians have facilitated this dumping despite the toll it has taken on Iraq’s own producers and consumers. However, Iranian imports into Iraqi markets have resulted in unemployment and inflation in Iraq and have deeply angered the Iraqi street. 


Iraqi Interests in the Future of the Country 


The most difficult issue to address in shaping both a meaningful strategic dialogue and a lasting Iraq-U.S. strategic relationship is what Iraqis want for their own country. Iraq is now a deeply divided country with unstable politics, governance, and economics. Aside from the obvious divisions of Iraq into Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish populations, those populations themselves are riven by cleavages. Iraqi political institutions, set up in the wake of the U.S. invasion in 2003, have amplified these divisions and are a major factor in Iraq’s political paralysis. 


There are two large, over-arching, issues in Iraqi politics that dominate all others: the balance between the United States and Iran in terms of foreign policy and, on a domestic level, how to create a sustainable governance system that brings Iraq prosperity, increases government legitimacy, and leads to Iraqi politicians serving the people as the source of political power. These two issues now sharply limit Iraq’s ability to move out of its current political crisis; both also have the potential to destroy Iraq as a functioning country.

  
The balance between the United States and Iran is such a thorny issue for Iraqi politics because the two issues are interconnected—Iraq’s political camps in Iraq depend on the patronage or balancing function performed by the two countries. Some major Iraqi Shia parties look to Iran as a political model as well as a source of funds and expertise to help them gain political advantage in Iraq. Other, nationalist, Shia Iraqis seek to either balance Iran and the United States, or to have both powers leave Iraqi politics. In contrast, Sunni Arabs and Kurdish Iraqis look to the United States to balance the power of Iran in Iraq. They fear that without the presence of the United States, pro-Iranian sectarian parties would seek to do what they did in 2011: marginalize and subjugate Sunni and Kurdish Iraqis.

 
Right now, Iraq has a policy-making system that involves bringing representatives of various Iraqi communities into representative bodies. These bodies give each factional leader a degree of political power, which they often use to serve their own interests. These bodies have fostered the creation of a patron-client based political system where political parties are more interested in dividing the spoils of power than on moving the country forward on important political issues.


Iraq desperately needs for the United States and Iran to not exacerbate these aspects of Iraq’s current crises. The country needs a stable foundation for moving forward and creating a future, for itself and the region, that does not involve conflict and constant inter-communal competition.


What the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue May Entail


Aside from all of the major considerations discussed above, the timing of the call for strategic dialogue, which came after a series of attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq by Shia militias allied with Iran, suggests that the most immediate reason for such intergovernmental discussions is to deal with the security of U.S. forces in Iraq. It is also very likely, given the Trump administration’s waning patience with Iran’s significant influence and power inside Iraq, that the meetings will be used as an opportunity to pose a very significant set of questions and demands to the Baghdad government.


Likely U.S. demands and questions for the Iraqi government include:




  • A demand that the Iraqi government guarantee the security of U.S. forces, the U.S. embassy in Iraq, and U.S. civilians and firms working in Iraq



  • When and how will Baghdad commit to reigning in the power of Iran-aligned Shia militias and truly put them under central government authority?



  • What credible steps will Iraq take to gain energy independence from Iran?



  • What credible steps will the Iraqi government take to reduce the sectarian nature of Iraqi politics, particularly the dominance of pro-Iranian Shia political forces in the country?



  • What steps will the Iraqi government take toward curtailing rampant corruption and providing basic services to the population?



  • What level of U.S. forces along with civil and military aid does Iraq want, and what will Iraq do to show it can unite, govern, and organize to use that aid effectively?



While it is one thing to know what questions or demands the U.S. side may pose to the Iraqis, it is another thing to consider what the United States may offer—or threaten—depending on the answers or actions it gets in response to these points. If Iraq is unprepared to give the United States a suitable response and define a suitable strategic relationship, it is possible that the balance of carrots and sticks may end up weighted toward the stick—U.S. withdrawal. Especially given the staggering cost of the COVID-19 pandemic to the U.S. economy, Iraq must already expect that U.S. aid will be less generous than it has been in the past.


Yet there are plenty of reasons to engage. The worst possible result for both Iraq and the region would be a strategic dialogue between the United States and Iraq that results in a failure to create a stable relationship. Such a result could entail withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, cutting off all U.S. aid, or even imposing U.S. sanctions against Iraq.


The Iraqi economy is reeling from decades of chronic mismanagement, record low oil prices, and the COVID-19 pandemic. A U.S. decision to end aid completely or an imposition of U.S. sanctions against Iraq could push the Iraqi state into outright destitution and the inability to provide the most basic functions. 


On the other hand, a failure to reach a functional strategic relationship could also result in a set of counter-productive consequences for the United States. Such an outcome could result in an increase in Iranian power. Moreover, Iranian resource and manpower expenditure to press its influence in Iraq may be seen as unnecessary if the U.S. presence were gone from Iraq, allowing those resources to be redirected in order to bolster the regime at home or divert to other pro-Iranian allies in the region.


The Importance of Realistic Expectations


While the outcomes of a failed strategic dialogue outlined above seem like the worst cases scenario, these outcomes are very much a possibility unless the U.S. government and Iraq’s divergent political forces each maintain realistic expectations of each other.


Iraqi political elites must realize that the status quo in Iraq is not tenable over the long run. At a minimum, these elites must be able to promise and deliver security for U.S. military forces and civilians in Iraq. Iraqi political elites must also work to move toward a political model that is not based primarily on communal identities in zero-sum competition. This is easier said than done, but it is clear that Iraq is heading toward economic and political failure if its political model is not changed to one that prioritizes Iraqi identity and interests over sub-national agendas.


At the same time, the U.S. government must develop realistic expectations of what the Iraqis can actually deliver. It is reasonable and correct to expect that the Iraqi government will protect U.S. forces and civilians in the country. It is also reasonable to expect that U.S. aid to Iraq does not disappear into a rabbit hole of corruption. But both expectations will need time to fulfill, as its leadership works to get Iraq on a path toward effective and clean government. 


Here, the United States can play an important role in nurturing effective government in Iraq by staying on its present course in calling out corruption, helping with infrastructure development, good policing, and other endeavors that can help build Iraq’s future. Training and educating Iraq’s next generation of politicians, security forces, and bureaucrats is a critical U.S. function.
 
Most importantly, the United States cannot expect Iraq to make a clear choice between Iran and the United States. The reality is that a democratic Iraq cannot definitively choose in a way that that would not fundamentally destabilize Iraq. The demographics and geography of Iraq are such that asking Iraq to expunge Iranian influence from the country is unrealistic. The U.S. government must accept an Iraq that has good relations with both the United States and Iran. 


Despite the challenges, Iraq and the United States do have a viable framework for a strategic dialogue that they can build upon existing agreements. The joint U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement and the Strategic Framework Agreement signed in December 2008 and implemented in January 2009 cover nearly all fields of possible cooperation between the two countries and address many of these issues. 


These agreements would be a good place to re-start a dialogue between the two countries as to respective expectations and commitments. Iraq needs a United States committed to its security and the United States needs an Iraq that views the United States as a partner and friend. In any case, a strategic dialogue is the place to start and both sides have every reason to define a new relationship that can lead to a lasting strategic partnership.

https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/fikraforum/view/Iraq-Strategic-Dialogue-United-States
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A U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue: A Question of Interests and Expectations Empty A report talks about US questions about Iraq during the strategic negotiations!

Post by claud39 on Thu May 14, 2020 5:10 pm

[size=30]A report talks about US questions about Iraq during the strategic negotiations![/size]




2020.05.14





A U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue: A Question of Interests and Expectations 477228407-30737-202005141120








Baghdad - people 



  

Two researchers from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy shed light on the prospects for Iraqi-American negotiations to be held early next June, while they indicated that the dialogue, which will be a series of meetings between senior American and Iraqi officials, aims to set all aspects of the US-Iraqi relationship On the table.  

  

On April 7, 2020, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for a "strategic dialogue" between the United States and Iraq to discuss the future of the relationship between the two countries, and the dialogue, which will be a series of meetings between senior US and Iraqi officials, aims to develop all aspects of the relationship American-Iraqi at the dialogue table.  

 

In order to understand what the strategic dialogue might yield, it is necessary to understand what are the interests of both the United States and Iraq - as well as Iran and other interested parties - as Iraq and the United States look to restructure their relationship. 

 

It is also necessary for the United States to move beyond its previous focus on ISIS, and the challenge posed by Iran at the present time, which has distinguished the US-Iraqi relationship over the past few years. The two sides should also take advantage of the opportunity for serious dialogue and consider instead how the United States and Iraq map the parameters of a sustainable strategic relationship - one that serves their strategic interests and helps to bring peace and stability to the region.

  

  

American interests in Iraq  



  

Before dealing with what the United States may ask of Iraq in the strategic dialogue, it is important to research the reason why Iraq is important to America, as some believe that the United States should simply reduce its losses in Iraq and withdraw from it. The answer to this proposal is simple: Iraq has great strategic importance for the United States in order to ensure stability in the Gulf, supply the global economy with oil, and reduce the risk of an outright war with Iran. 

 

  

A US withdrawal from Iraq would enable the hardline Iranian regime, terrorism and regional extremism to inflict major harm on US national security. And just as the American withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 proved a costly and even fatal mistake, the United States will withdraw its forces in the future and support for the Iraqi government - especially the support of the Iraqi security forces - would have major repercussions for US interests in the Middle East.

  

  

American strategic interests in Iraq can be divided into four main categories: the threats posed by Iran; Threatening ISIS or another similar group; A divided Iraq and its repercussions on the region; And competition between the superpowers. Hence, the United States must continue to focus on these four interests, or Iraq will become a major concern for them in the future.

  

  

Iraq is central to the United States' strategy of containing the expansion and influence of the current Iranian regime. No country in the Gulf region is currently more important than Iraq to the United States in its endeavor to contain the plans of the Supreme Leader, militant revolutionaries, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. If the United States is able to help Iraqi leaders build a stable and strong Iraq, this will be an important addition to deter Iranian ambitions and the military pressure exerted by the Islamic Republic in the Gulf region.  

 

 

Iraq is currently facing a period of dysfunction in governance, deep internal divisions and serious economic problems. However, it possesses huge oil resources in addition to an educated and large segment of the population. And if Iran manages to exploit Iraq’s problems to control it, that will dramatically increase its power. But any Iranian endeavor aimed at dividing Iraqi politics or domination completely will face significant opposition from many Shi'a, Sunni, and Kurdish Iraqi Arabs. It will also fuel sectarian, ethnic and regional tension and is highly likely to lead to another civil war in Iraq. 

 

  

A similar civil conflict would lead to serious problems in the region and encourage terrorism and extremism. The presence of an unstable Iraq will also strengthen Sunni and Shiite extremism in Iraq and the rest of the region as a whole, and help the return of ISIS and extend beyond the Iraqi borders. Moreover, Sunni Arabs may consider ISIS the lesser of two evils if they clash with a largely Shi’ite sectarian government that Iran pressures to exclude them and deny them any political voice in Iraq. This is what happened after the US withdrawal in 2011 and there are not many reasons to believe that this trend will not be repeated. It is a scenario that the United States is hard to ignore and will require a US military commitment to contain it.

  

  

The United States should indeed refocus its concerns on ISIS in the short term as well, since issuing a political statement stating that the organization was destroyed after losing its strongholds is tantamount to ignoring facts on the ground. The organization is still present and active in Iraq, and in fact it is participating in a gang campaign active in the Sunni-majority areas of Iraq, a campaign that has intensified recently. ISIS is now much stronger than Al Qaeda in Iraq when US forces left in 2011. 

 

  

And the Iraqi army remains relatively weak after receiving a triple blow to its capabilities when politics in Iraq in the United States prompted withdrawal in 2011, and Nouri al-Maliki stripped Iraqi forces of competent officers and replaced them with political followers who responded to him. This facilitated mass desertions of soldiers and the destruction of units in the war against ISIS. 

 

  

The training and support provided by the United States to the Iraqi army is now essential to keep the Iraqi security forces on the path to renewal. It is still weaker than the “Popular Mobilization Forces” as many Shiite units line up with Iran, and allowing Shiite militias to dominate the Iraqi security sector will help ISIS to regain its strength and will not help defeat it. 

 

  

Finally, the United States has a strategic interest in Iraq to counter Russia and China’s efforts to extend their economic and political influence in the country. The Russian and Chinese governments are essentially making strenuous efforts to strengthen their influence in Iraq at the expense of the United States. American financial investment in Iraq could fail if Chinese or Russian companies replaced the US. Also, a picture that the United States will abandon Iraq on behalf of the Russians and the Chinese will have repercussions beyond the Iraqi borders. This would be a sign to other countries in the region that the United States is a reliable friend. 

 

  

The bottom line with regard to US interests in Iraq is that America has a significant and mandatory interest in having a stable, prosperous, and politically balanced Iraq, especially in view of the downsides of the alternative. And if the United States withdraws from Iraq before achieving these goals, it will be forced to deal with an Iraqi disaster that may cost the United States much more than it needs to be. 

 

  

At the same time, staying in Iraq requires major changes to politics, governance and development in Iraq. It cannot be said that the problems of Iraq began with the American invasion in 2003. Some of them date back to the history of the establishment of the state and others to its development since the fall of the monarchy, and many of them are the products of Saddam Hussein's actions. Also, today's problems are mostly the product of Iraq's current leaders. Only the United States can help Iraq help itself.  

 

 

Iranian interests in Iraq

  

  

Iran is the primary external player in American calculations about Iraq, which makes it very important for Iran to ensure that Iraq does not once again pose a security threat to its eastern neighbor. It is worth noting that Iran seeks to use Iraq to strengthen Tehran's strategic authority in the region and to preserve and develop Iraq as a market for Iranian goods and services. And the current security elite in Iran, whether reformists, militants or others, will not abandon Iraq as long as it is weak and divided. Iran's rulers realize that they do not have the luxury of thinking about it, even as an option.  

 

 

After a years-long war in the 1980s against Saddam Hussein, Iran decided that the best way to neutralize the grave threat to its national security of Iran's current regime was to "take control" of their "leaders" in Baghdad. Iran's leaders assume that outside powers, especially the United States, will seek to weaken pro-Iranian Shiite blocs in Iraq. Likewise, there are many Iraqis, especially the Sunni Arabs, the Kurds, and even the nationalist Shiite Arabs, who do not want to see pro-Iranian parties dominate Iraqi politics. 

 

  

Also, controlling Iraq serves a broader regional purpose, which is to establish a land bridge between Iran and Lebanon, and Iraq is an essential part of that strategy, in light of its effective control by Hezbollah. Consequently, control of Iraq is a way to expand Iran's influence in the Middle East, while working to secure its positions against potential regional competitors. 

 

  

Finally, Iraq is essential for Iran as it is an important market for Iranian goods and services. This is the case now more than ever, as Iran is reeling under the weight of sanctions imposed on its economy. Iraq is a market for Iranian goods that are not spent, in other words, for Iranian goods that do not find other markets. Pro-Iranian Shiite politicians have made this possible for the Islamic Republic, despite the negative repercussions for Iraqi producers and consumers. Iranian imports to the Iraqi market have resulted in unemployment and inflation in Iraq and have profoundly angered the Iraqi street.  

 

 

Iraqi interests in the country's future 

 

  

The most difficult issue in organizing a meaningful strategic dialogue between the United States and Iraq and establishing a lasting strategic relationship between them is what Iraqis want for their country. Iraq is now a country largely divided and experiencing instability in politics, governance and the economy. And not to mention the clear divisions in Iraq between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, these same people live internal divisions. The Iraqi political institutions that were established in the wake of the US invasion in 2003 contributed to the exacerbation of these divisions, and they are considered a major factor in the political paralysis in Iraq. 

 

  

It is worth noting that two major and comprehensive issues in Iraqi politics dominate all other issues: the balance between the United States and Iran regarding foreign policy and the local level, and how to create a stable and sustainable system of government that brings prosperity to Iraq and strengthens the legitimacy of the government and comes to power with Iraqi politicians serving the people Which is the source of their political strength. These two issues now greatly limit Iraq’s ability to emerge from its current political crisis and have the ability to destroy the country and prevent it from being an effective state in its affairs. 

 

  

The balance between the United States and Iran is a thorny problem for Iraqi politics because the political camps in Iraq depend on the patronage of both countries or on the balance function that they perform. Some prominent Iraqi Shiite parties consider Iran a political example and a source of funds and expertise that help it gain political advantage in Iraq, while other Iraqi Shiite nationalists either seek to balance Iran and the United States or to push both powers out of Iraqi politics. On the other hand, Sunni Arabs and Iraqi Kurds are waiting for the United States to balance Iran's authority in Iraq, and they fear that in the absence of the American presence, the pro-Iranian sectarian parties will seek to do what they did in 2011, i.e. marginalizing the Iraqi Sunnis and Kurds.  



  

Currently, Iraq adopts a policy-making system that provides representative bodies with representatives from different Iraqi societies and gives each factional leader specific political authority that these leaders often use to serve their own interests. This system has led to the establishment of a clientelistic political system in which the political parties are more concerned with dividing the spoils of power than by moving the path of affairs in the country to find solutions to important political issues.

  

  

Iraq urgently needs the United States and Iran not to exacerbate these aspects of its current crises. This country needs a solid foundation in order to move forward and create a future for itself and the region that does not entail permanent conflicts and competition between sects. 

 

  

What the American-Iraqi strategic dialogue may hold

  

  

Regardless of all the major considerations discussed above, the timing of the call for strategic dialogue - which came after a series of attacks on US forces in Iraq by Shiite militias allied to Iran - highlights that the immediate reason for such inter-governmental talks is to ensure safety American forces in Iraq. Given that the Trump administration's patience with the situation in Iraq, and specifically about Iran's influence and authority in the country, has begun to be implemented, these meetings are very likely to be used as an opportunity to raise an important set of questions and requests to the Baghdad government.

  

  

And the US requests / questions that the United States will ask the Iraqi government may include:

  

  

He requested that the Iraqi government guarantee the safety of the American forces, the American embassy in Iraq, American civilians, and the American companies operating in Iraq.

  

When and how will Baghdad commit to controlling the authority of Shiite militias allied to Iran and putting them physically under the authority of the central government? 

 

 What reliable steps will Iraq take to restore its energy independence from Iran? 

 

What reliable steps will the Iraqi government take to reduce the sectarian nature of Iraqi politics, especially the dominance of pro-Iranian Shiite political forces in the country?

  

What steps will the Iraqi government take to reduce endemic corruption and provide basic services to the people?

  

What level does Iraq want in terms of US forces, civilian and military assistance, and what will it do to demonstrate its ability to unite, govern and organize to use that aid effectively? 

 

While knowing the questions or requests that the American side may ask the Iraqis is a separate issue, looking at what the United States may offer - or threaten to do - based on the answers or actions that it will get in response to those questions / demands is another issue. If Iraq is not ready to give the United States an appropriate response and define an appropriate strategic relationship with it, it is likely that the tendency to reward the balance of reward and punishment toward punishment or the withdrawal of the United States may end. Given the high cost of the "Covid-19" pandemic on the American economy, Iraq should not expect American aid to be as generous as it was in the past.  



  

The worst possible outcome for both Iraq and the region is a strategic dialogue between the United States and Iraq that fails to establish a stable relationship between the two countries. A similar result could lead to the withdrawal of American armies from Iraq, the cessation of all American aid, or even the imposition of US sanctions on Iraq. 

 

  

However, the Iraqi economy suffers from decades of chronic mismanagement and a historical decline in oil prices and the "Covid 19" epidemic. And an American decision to stop aid entirely or impose US sanctions on Iraq could push the Iraqi state into extreme poverty and the inability to provide the lowest basic jobs. 

 

  

Moreover, the inability to reach a practical strategic relationship may result in a set of negative repercussions on the United States, which may enhance Iranian influence. Moreover, Iran's increasing Iranian resources and workforce to pressure its influence in Iraq may be seen as unnecessary if the United States leaves Iraq. Iran may not feel obligated to direct those resources towards Iraq, which would lead to more Iranian resources remaining at home to support the regime or transfer it to other pro-Iranian allies in the region.

  

  

The importance of realistic expectations

  

  

While the above detailed results of a failed strategic dialogue seem to be the worst scenarios, they are plausible outcomes unless the US government and the political forces in Iraq have no realistic expectations from each other. 

 

  

In this context, the Iraqi political elites must realize that the current situation in the country will not last in the long run. At a minimum, these elites must be able to make a promise to ensure the safety of US military forces and American citizens in Iraq. Likewise, these elites must prepare a political model that is not primarily based on sectarian identities in a contest that is neither overpowered nor defeated. There is no doubt that it is easier said than done, but it is clear that Iraq is heading towards economic and political failure if its political model does not change to become a model that prioritizes Iraqi identity and interests over subnational agendas. 

 

  

At the same time, the US government must set realistic expectations of what Iraqis can actually provide. It is reasonable and correct to expect the Iraqi government to protect the American forces and citizens present in the country. It is also reasonable to expect that the United States' assistance to Iraq in the fight against corruption will not evaporate. But putting Iraq on the path to forming an effective and clean government takes time to accomplish, as its leadership works to push the country toward an effective government.

  

  

In this context, the United States can play an important role in nurturing an effective government in Iraq by maintaining its current course of combating corruption and helping to develop infrastructure, police work and other endeavors that build the future of Iraq. Training and educating the next generation of politicians, security forces, and bureaucrats in Iraq is an essential American task.

  

  

More importantly, the United States cannot expect Iraq to have to make a clear decision and choose between Iran and America. A democratic Iraq cannot choose one side or the other without this option significantly destabilizing it. Given Iraq's demographic and geographic characteristics, it is unrealistic to ask him to get rid of Iranian influence. The US government should accept an Iraq that has good relations with both the United States and Iran. 

 

  

Despite the challenges, it must be noted that Iraq and the United States have a workable framework within which they can conduct a strategic dialogue through which they build on existing agreements between the two parties. The "Status of Forces Agreement" and "Joint Strategic Framework Agreement" between the United States and Iraq, signed in December 2008 and implemented in January 2009, cover nearly all areas of potential cooperation between the two countries and address many of these issues. These two agreements constitute a good starting point for the resumption of dialogue between them regarding expectations and mutual obligations. Iraq needs a United States committed to its security, and the United States needs an Iraq that it considers both a partner and a friend. In any case, the strategic dialogue is considered the ideal starting point, and the two sides have every good reason to map out a new relationship that can lead to a permanent strategic partnership.  





claud39
claud39
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