Against the background of the US-Iranian escalation, which resulted from Washington imposing economic sanctions on Iran and classifying its Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist and sending a group of warships led by the Abraham Lincoln carrier with B-52 bombers to the Gulf because of Iranian threats to US forces and their allies. . And the accompanying Iranian military actions by its allies in the region
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said he will visit Washington and Tehran soon to discuss the situation in the region against the backdrop of tension between the United States and Iran. “I will visit Washington and Tehran soon to discuss the situation in the region,” Abdul Mahdi told a weekly news conference on Tuesday. Abdul Mahdi said that “the last statement by US President Donald Trump is the statement of calm,” pointing out that the visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Jawad Zarif to Baghdad, “has taken a clear position.” The Iraqi Prime Minister added: “We moved towards calm to spare Iraq the consequences of sanctions on Tehran.” He stressed: “we have clarified our point of view on the issue of sanctions and it was supposed to be lifted … if this situation continues we may reach an escalation that hurts everyone”.
Observers believe that the visit of Abdul Mahdi to Washington in particular will carry several security and political and economic files, and is expected to establish a stable relationship with the Americans, especially with regard to the US military presence in Iraq. They pointed out that the sure talk today is that Iraq will soon be exempt from US sanctions on Iran for another renewable 90 days at least .
They pointed out that the departure of Abdul Mahdi and his ministerial team to Iran and then the United States, will carry one message, which is a hope that Iraq remains away from the current conflict, and give it the exception, which is linked to his fragile security and political situation. They said that Iraq has entered the axis of rationalists or advocates of peace in the current crisis experienced by the region, which will move in this framework.
As tension between Iran and the United States grows, Baghdad has decided not to talk only about a policy of self-restraint from conflicts but to enter as an intermediary to end the crisis between the two sides. Iraq is an extraordinary meeting point for the United States and Iran, which are hostile to each other and allied with Baghdad. Will Iraq to succeed in its quest to remove the specter of war from the region?
The government of Adel Abdul-Mahdi pursues a declared and clear policy that sees the need to distance Iraq from the circle of tension between the United States and Iran, which the Iraqi arena represents more than others an arena to settle the accounts between them, either directly or through agents. Baghdad seeks to adapt its relations with Washington and Tehran in a kind of balance and non-alignment to anyone of them taking into the consideration the highest interests of the country to spare Iraq from entering the conflicts of other countries by proxy. He refused that Iraq to enter in the policy of axis along with one state against another, with the keenness of his country to establish balanced relations with all in the interests of Iraq and the interests of other countries.
Based on these trends, the Baghdad offer came as a mediator between Washington and Tehran, but its directions collide with the existence of influential parties in the decision centers and the state security, military and legislative institutions aligned with the Iranian policies against the United States. Local media quoted the Deputy Secretary-General of the Movement of Nujaba as saying that what he called “The Iraqi resistance factions are ready to target American interests in the right time.” In the same context, one of the most prominent leaders of the movement of Asaib Ahl al-Haq allied to Iran said that the US forces deployed in the Iraqi provinces will not be safe if the axis of resistance is exposed to American – Israeli strikes. According to statements by Abdul Mahdi in recent days, he is making great efforts to calm the situation with indications from both parties that things will end well…
In the event of a conflict between Tehran and Washington, most observers tend to expect that Iraq will be the first possible battleground. Washington has recently warned that it will respond directly against Iran if its troops and interests in Iraq or the region were attacked, in exchange for Iranian warnings of harsh responses to the United States and its allies. The United States maintains a military presence of more than 5,200 troops deployed to eight military bases in Iraq, including bases in the Kurdistan region that government of Kurdistan Region is likely not to oppose using them by the Americans against Iran.
Iran is counting on the United States to use the Kurdish military base of Harir in Erbil to launch attacks on Iranian installations or cities or target its allied forces in Iraq. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander, Hossein Salami, warned in statements that the territory of Iraqi Kurdistan would be at the mercy of Iranian missiles if they were used as a launching pad to strike Iran.
The Deputy US Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs during his visit to Erbil recently has clearly demanded from the Kurdistan Regional Government and political leaders to stop dealing with Iran, as part of the campaign led by Washington against Tehran. In the context, the International Coalition against the Islamic State Organization announced in 14 this month a state of high alert because of imminent threat to US forces in Iraq, despite the announcement earlier that the war on Iran is not its duties.
The new US policies include holding Iran directly responsible for any attacks by Tehran’s groups or organizations against the interests of the United States, which is of concern to Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, countries in which Iranian-allied armed groups operate. US-Iranian tensions have been escalated after the US administration received Israeli intelligence information that a plot to target US soldiers in Iraq or at the military base in Syria by Iraqi armed groups.
Military units of the popular crowd are deployed in Anbar province and control long distances from the Iraqi-Syrian border. The United States is afraid that Iran to provide some Iraqi groups with medium- or long-range missiles to target US forces and interests in Iraq, and in Syria as well. According to media reports and statements by US officials, Iran has already provided factions such as Asaib Ahl al-Haq and the Nujba movement and Hezbollah, with missiles that its range reach 300 km and others with ranges of 150 and 210 km that can reach US targets in Iraq and Syria.
But what if the Iraqi mediation fails? “There are radical forces and personalities in the United States and Iran, and what is feared is that these radical figures have the decisive word, and so things can get out of their natural context and all their mediation attempts fail to defuse the crisis between Tehran and Washington ,” says the academic and political writer, Dr. Diari Faily.
He added “Adil Abdul Mahdi started to realize the reality of this perception and started to move in two parallel paths , the first is starting from the point of relying on the idea that Iraq could introduce a project to bring Iran and the United States closer , and the other is to prepare for the possibility of increasing tension between Washington and Tehran. , considering that Iraq will be the most affected scene by the intensity of the engagement between the two parties, especially if we know that the Iraqi Prime Minister began to send clear messages that there are forces on the ground in Iraq, working for the benefit of Iran, and may take hasty and emotional steps , contribute to fueling the problem and push the American side to take military action. ”
On the possibility of the success of the visit of the Iraqi Prime Minister to Tehran and Washington for the calm of the situation , “Fili” says , that: “Iraq does not have many options, and must take a political step that it plays a major role in giving some responsibility for what is happening , taking into consideration that it is in the interest of Iraq to move and in quick steps, and to activate diplomatic initiatives, not to become a messenger between the United States and Iran, and the point of the real problem lies in the role that Iraq must do, is there really a clear strategy and agreed upon between the Iraqi political forces ? .. Do we have a project to form a vision for a national consensus through which the Iraqi Prime Minister and his government can play the role of mediator between these two influential forces on the Iraqi political scene? ,” Fili” believes:” Iraq has no choice but to play this role, and if Iraq fails to play the role of mediator; the results will be disastrous for Iraq in the near term”.
At the same time, a report published by the Brookings Institute warned that tensions between the United States and Iran could “destroy the fragile peace in Iraq.” The report, issued by the institute’s branch in Qatar, said the United States should be aware of the magnitude of the crisis that Iraq could face if there were clashes with Iranian agents in the country.
According to the report, this could lead to a series of unintended consequences that could result in the shedding of much blood inside Iraq and the revival of the sectarian conflict and the re-establishment of the” ISIS” organization, as the conflict between the United States and Iran over land Iraq, to destroy the difficult political balance that emerged after the elections last year; and the regional defeat to the terrorist organization of ISIS. The author of the report refers that the consensus of power sharing in “Iraq” is so fragile and weak to the extent that any major imbalance could lead to a political explosion in the “Baghdad”.
The instability in Iraq will lead to the revival of an environment favored by Iran-backed armed militias. It is almost certain that this collapse will lead to deadly clashes that could ultimately lead to civil war. The report shows that Shiite militia groups in Iraq, Such as Hezbollah, Al-Nujba’a and Asaib Ahl al-Haq, have proven themselves as active actors and transnational whose ambitions and capabilities extend beyond the regional borders. Will Iraq stop the drums of war between Washington and Tehran?
Iraqi Studies Unit
Center for Research and Strategic Studies