The military dimension in the context of US-Iraqi relations

The military dimension in the context of US-Iraqi relations

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On January 5, the Iraqi Council of Representatives voted on a resolution calling on the government to end the foreign military presence on the country’s territory and to submit a formal complaint to the Security Council against the United States for its “violation of Iraqi sovereignty.” The decision came against the backdrop of the escalating anger in Iraq due to the American raids that took place during the first days of that month, which led to the killing of the Iranian “Quds Force” commander Qassem Soleimani, the deputy head of the “Popular Mobilization Authority” Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, and other fighters from the crowd.

A step that prompted the United States to go into studying the possibility of cutting military aid to Iraq, as the United States of America is thinking to reconsider the military aid to Iraq if Baghdad decides to end the foreign presence on its soil. The American Wall Street Journal reported today, Wednesday, that the State Department and the Department of Defense discussed a reduction of military aid by about $ 250 million, and a review of other military and economic aid.

The newspaper revealed that the US Department of State’s Near East Affairs office submitted a request to the White House Administration and Budget Office, whether it could cancel the $ 100 million request for fiscal year 2021, due to the current situation in Iraq. A statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that a final decision had not been taken, but senior administration officials ordered to review the funds that might be held or reallocated in the event that Iraq requested the troops to leave the country.

It is useful to note here that Iraq is at the forefront of the Arab countries that receive American aid, as it obtained 5.28 billion, 89 percent of which is for the military field. In detail, Iraq has received 4.8 billion in security and military support, 369 million in humanitarian relief assistance, including 86 million in urgent food aid, while administrative expenditures have received 10 million support.

The American support for Iraq in 2001, when Saddam Hussein was still in power, did not exceed 181 thousand dollars, then in 2006, it was jumped three years after the occupation of Iraq by American forces , to 9.7 billion, the highest percentage among all Arab countries during the past years.

Observers of the Iraqi issue see that the cessation of American aid and the withdrawal of its forces from Iraq will negatively affect the interests of Iraq and is a defeat for the United States of America. With regard to aid, there are Iraqi interests in the presence of the American influence represented in the great military, security and economic aid that Iraq receives from America and its allies, as it happened that Iraq has gained $ 5.28 billion, 89% of which is for the military field. In addition, the United States is the primary source for arming the Iraqi army, the counter-terrorism service, the federal police forces, and surveillance and espionage technologies for the intelligence, and national security services.

American aid plays an important role in modifying the financial system of Iraq, by contributing to stimulating the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and allied countries to participate in reconstruction and stability programs, as well as urging large companies to invest in Iraq, so to cut US aid to Iraq will prevent this.

And if Trump implements his decision to cut US military aid to Iraq, this will have repercussions on the structure of the military system, and adversely affect the completion of this structure and its rehabilitation, after being exhausted by the battles with the terrorist organization ISIS. In light of the budget deficit and the financial and administrative corruption that hangs over the formation of the state, its frameworks and interfaces, especially that Iraq’s accounts are protected in the American Federal Bank.

As for the American withdrawal from Iraq, there is a direct link between Soleimani’s death and the established priority in his policy of forcing the United States out of Iraq. And if Washington withdrew now, Soleimani would have accomplished by his death what he unsuccessfully tried in his life, and this will be much more than a symbolic and moral failure, but rather a great political defeat for Washington and a victory for Iran. But if American leaders maintain their presence in Iraq, they will confirm the failure of the Soleimani saga, which would erode Iran’s international standing and strengthen Washington’s position at the same time.

It is no secret that Iraq suffers a lot because of Iranian interference, but relations between the United States and Iraq have proven to be not a hopeless issue. There was ample evidence of that in the past few days alone: Iraqi President Barham Salih, Speaker of Parliament Muhammad Al-Halbousi, and the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs publicly denounced the Iranian ballistic missile attack on bases where US forces are present; and half of the entire Iraqi parliament boycotted the voting session that was held on January 5 to remove the American forces. In addition, President Saleh issued a statement in which he indicated that “the United States is our ally and Iran is our neighbor.” The leaders of the “Iraqi Kurdistan government” pledged again – publicly and privately – to cooperate with the states United states.

And if the American forces remain in Iraq, it will greatly enhance the position of the United States in those countries and contribute to countering the harmful influence of Iran throughout the region. But its exit means that Iraq will be exposed to an imminent danger of slipping back into the devastating isolation of Saddam Hussein’s days, knowing that at that time it will be less able to resist the fierce Iranian policies. In fact, most Iraqis are wary of this idea, and rightly, and the best evidence for this is the hundreds of thousands of anti-Iran demonstrators who have taken to the Iraqi streets in recent months, especially in the Shiite areas. They greatly prefer a sovereign, peaceful, pluralistic, and fully integrated Iraq to the international community. A continued American diplomatic and military presence would help advance those hopes. As such, it is reasonable for Washington to expect the Iraqi government to put forward conditions to make this presence beneficial to both parties.

In sum, the decision taken by the Iraqi parliament will mark the beginning of a process in which the US-led coalition and Iraq must reconsider the terms of cooperation between them because both sides have deep-rooted complaints. Iraq is genuinely concerned about the fact that the United States has taken military measures inside its territory in operations that have targeted Iraqi citizens and have not been authorized by the Iraqi state.

But there are many reasons for dissatisfaction on the other side as well , the United States and many key partners, such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, France and Germany, have serious concerns that the Iraqi government will not be concerned about Iranian violations of Iraqi sovereignty, and about the reality of militias undermining security sector reforms and killing civilians who are grossly defenseless, as well as the lack of physical presence of an empowered government since Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi resigned amid popular protests in October.

This should be the starting point for a dialogue on establishing a new era of strategic and military partnership between the United States and Iraq based on mutual understanding. Whether Iraq falls into the hands of the terrorist organization ISIS or the militia masters of war and the proxy war between America and Iran, the result will be the same: refugees, chaos, and war.

It is true that the United States and its coalition partners are present in Iraq to defeat the terrorist organization ISIS, but another common goal that unites them with many Iraqis may provide an excellent basis for future cooperation: the steadfastness of an Iraqi state enjoying with sovereignty, stability, and democracy.

Iraqi Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies